Playing it Straight: Reality Bites

Dubliner Stephen Byrne tackles homophobia in football in this well made documentary for RTE. A personal journey for stephen as his love for the game has been tested regularly since struggling with the  homophobia in schoolboy football while growing up.

Stephen travels to the UK for an honest examination of homophobia in the game. Is it really a game for all?

Stephen talks to  the niece of Justin Fashanu, alana, who campaigns against homophobia in football and gets insights from Gareth Thomas, Graham Le Saux and Robbie Rogers.

Robbie Rogers tells of how he had to leave football to come out. The documentary examines why there are no out players in the premiership, who is stopping them and when will this change and if football is pushing a new generation further into the closet.

“Stephen Byrne is a television presenter, radio host, winner of YouTube’s Nextup Competition, a keen footballer and massive Chelsea fan. He is also gay.

The ‘lack’ of gay footballers has long troubled him, and in Playing Straight, Stephen explores why soccer players from the grassroots to the highest leagues don’t come out, and finds out what makes the ‘people’s game’, a straight game.

Among the contributors to the programme are former England international Graeme Le Saux who speaks about the infamous incident with Robbie Fowler and also how the perception he was gay led to him receiving vicious abuse from the terraces.

Gareth Thomas- ex Welsh and British Lions captain- tells Stephen about how knowing he was gay but feeling unable to come out because he was playing rugby led him to the brink of suicide. He is also scathing about the lack of action from the footballing authorities in combatting homophobia

Robbie Rogers – ex- Leeds United and current LA Galaxy. Robbie details how endemic homophobia was in his time in Britain, and how he felt he could only come out after he had retired.

Daniel a Brighton fan who recorded vicious abuse at a Brighton- Derby match while sitting in the away end. Culminating in a fan saying ‘if you don’t like homophobic abuse, don’t come to football’

Alan Pardew- Crystal Palace manager- who says he thinks he has managed gay players- but no one ever felt brave enough to come out to him- but that he would be delighted to be the manager of the first player to come out.

The programme also features vox pops with fans from grounds across the UK talking about their knowledge and experience of homophobia at football.

Amal Fashanu- niece of Justin Fashanu, reflects on how his becoming the first footballer to come out led to his eventual suicide.

Owen Gibson- Chief Sports Editor at the Guardian- who is very clear that homophobia is something that survives in part because of the deeply entrenched secretive, ‘us against the world’, internal culture of football.

Di Cunningham- head of the LGBT football supporters umbrella group- who is fighting to get the game to recognise that it has a problem.”

RTE.ie, Playing it straight will be available on RTE Player


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