FOOTBALLER turned anti-discrimination campaigner Kieron Brady is backing a new drive to kick homophobia out of the beautiful game.
The 39-year-old former Sunderland player, who runs the Celebrate Identity Challenge Intolerance Equality and Diversity training group, has thrown his support behind the nationwide Justin Campaign.
Inspired by gay footballer Justin Fashanu, who committed suicide in 1998, the drive aims to highlight the problem of homophobia in the game.
Kieron, who provides anti-discrimination training to schools and businesses across the North East, said the “manliness and borderline misogyny” of the changing room culture was partly to blame.
“Footballers’ learning of the game coincides with being brought into a sub-culture of socialising, excesses and omnipotent peer pressure which stipulates that scoring on a Saturday night is as important as finding the net hours previous,” said Kieron, who still lives in Sunderland.
“This almost inescapable aura is contributory to why any player, either gay or bi-sexual, will go through periods of uncertainty, not around his sexuality, but around whether such a public proclamation is conducive to maintaining his place amongst the pack.”
Kieron, who made 33 appearances for the Black Cats in the late 1980s and early 1990s before he was forced to quit because of injury, launched his organisation in a bid to battle racism, religious intolerance and other forms of discrimination.
“Someone asked me recently if I thought we would have made great strides if one day the papers had splashed across the front pages that a top footballer was gay,” said Glasgow-born Kieron.
“I replied that we will, but not as much as when we are at a stage when a professional player being gay is not front page news.”
The Justin campaign, which is being backed by the FA, aims to unite community groups and football teams against the “last taboo” in the game.
Director Alan Duffy said: “In shedding light on the often suffocating machismo of the dressing room, Kieron Brady has addressed one of the biggest problems facing us in the fight against homophobia in football.
“However, by working with the footballing authorities as well as constantly questioning the current situation, we can create an environment where sexuality, of whatever orientation, becomes a non-issue.”
l For more information about the Justin Campaign visit www.thejustincampaign.com or for the Celebrate Identity Challenge Intolerance Equality and Diversity visit www.cici.org.uk