Gareth 'Alfie' Thomas takes a hard-hitting look at the open homophobia in professional football, meeting fans, players, managers, pressure groups, lawyers and police.
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A normal Saturday in the English Football League,
and Leeds are preparing to welcome Brighton
from Britain's so-called gay capital.
The world's most famous gay sportsman, Gareth "Alfie" Thomas,
is on the way to the ground with Brighton fans.
Well, wherever we go, really,
we tend to get chants of, "Does your boyfriend know you're here?"
Or, "We can see you holding hands."
You guys don't react?
-Well, we do react, I mean, we start singing things to them -
"You're too ugly to be gay." Or when we are beating them
we start singing, "1-0 to the nancy boys."
-Right, so make a joke about it?
It's kind of...you don't really notice it any more.
Probably the most surprising of everything
is the acceptance of the level
of abuse, the normality that abuse has been given.
I find that unacceptable.
If I was a player in this environment, I would be so afraid.
So afraid, because you give them an inch and they're going to take
a mile, because they're just looking for that one crack.
They're trying to break each other.
It is a human right that we are allowed to be who we want to be,
yet football, for some reason, feels like,
yeah, you can be who you want to be, but within this game,
if you're not a stereotypical male or female we expect you to be, then,
you know what, we are allowed to abuse you for 90 minutes.
That, in my book, ain't right.
There are 5,000 male professional footballers in the UK.
Not one is openly gay.
Does fear rule, or are there just no gay players?
Do you personally know of any footballers
who are hiding their sexuality
within the Football League right now?
Yes, I do. And I know the lies that they are living and I know the fear
that they have.
It's lovely! Robbie Rogers!
One player reveals the homophobia that stopped him coming out
when he was playing in the UK.
I heard it from, you know, coaches, from fans, from players,
but definitely it was within the changing room
that affected me the most.
And politicians have started asking why football seems to be
the last refuge of extreme homophobia.
What is it about football that makes it lag
so far behind civilised society?
So, 50 years after the legalisation of homosexuality,
Alfie asks, is football finally ready to kick its homophobic habit?
I think everybody has something to say about the issue,
but nobody does anything about the issue,
and I'd like to find out why that is.
# You're queer and you know you are
# You're queer and you know you are
# You're queer and you know you are. #
CHANTING ECHOES AND FADES
This is the cliffs I would come to once a week,
for maybe a three-month period.
And I'd always go through this process of standing at the top
of the cliff, taking off my shoes, putting my shoes tidy,
putting my socks in my shoes, folding my clothes.
So, every day I'd come, I'd go like a step closer to the edge and then
a step closer to the edge, going closer and closer and closer.
It's a strange, strange thing of wanting to die,
but I didn't want to die - I just didn't want to open my eyes again.
Cos the world that I saw in front of me was something that I was
really, really scared of.
Ten years ago, Gareth Thomas was a sporting icon.
Captain of Wales with 100 caps.
Hard man. Enforcer.
But the adulation of millions could not help him deal with a secret.
I wasn't the person that I was portraying myself to be,
and it makes you feel ugly, it makes you feel shameful,
and it really does, it makes you feel like you want to die.
I was afraid of being judged
for something as normal, as I see it now, as my sexuality.
The fear of people looking at me differently or talking about me.
Everything that I had worked my whole life for being taken away,
and left with nothing to live for.
But I still want to be able to hear my mother talk.
I still want to be able to hear my father laugh.
And it's like THEY are the people that would be affected by this.
That, I think, was the one thing that was stopping me
from jumping off the edge.
So, the last time I came here, I solemnly said to myself,
"I'm never coming back, because I'm choosing to live,
"I'm not choosing to die."
Having first admitted his true sexuality
to his family and team-mates,
Alfie then came out to the world on the pages of the Daily Mail -
the paper his father read.
Years of torment for me
took my team-mates, took my friends,
took my family probably 30 seconds of contemplation
to be able to deliver the words like, "It doesn't matter,"
and to me, all of a sudden, life was completely different.
Honesty was something that gave me a sense of freedom to be able to walk
down the street a little bit prouder, a little bit happier,
look people in the eye, and be proud of who I am, where I've come from,
um, and what I represent.
It's ten years since Alfie came out,
and he's now a celebrated gay icon the world over.
Oh, oh, what a goal!
Oh, that's a magnificent goal!
The only top-flight male footballer to come out whilst playing in the UK
was Justin Fashanu.
His story is very different to that of Alfie Thomas.
When he came out in 1990,
he was subject to vile abuse on the terraces, in the press,
and on the streets.
In 1998, having been accused of sexual assault,
Fashanu hanged himself.
So, I'm on my way now to see Amal Fashanu,
who is the niece of Justin Fashanu.
And I just want to chat to her, cos I want to know her experiences,
cos she's done a similar project to this.
-Hello, my lovely.
-Hi, how are you?
Five years ago, Amal Fashanu made her own documentary
about the world of football and the homophobia her uncle suffered.
You know when you went to the governing bodies about Justin,
did they take any kind of, any blame, or give you kind of,
I suppose, any empathy towards what happened with him?
I think definitely empathy,
because that's a very diplomatic and very good way of describing,
you know. I think because Justin passed away,
there is a certain sense of,
kind of diplomacy, in a way.
You're not going to obviously offend to that extreme.
I'm quite hard-core when it comes to that,
cos I was really wanting to defend Justin,
because what I did realise was that football in general,
it's a very particular sport, you know.
It's not like rugby, it's not like cricket.
Within football, I feel like there is a special type of community.
I don't know whether you can call it
a macho kind of society environment, which is very closed, you know?
I think that there is a lot of money involved in it
and it is very hard to actually get the truth
and actually understand what's going on.
I mean, for me, what was most shocking about my documentary
was the fact that, you know, the FA could say
that the reason why there is nothing
really in place for a gay footballer
would be because there are no gay footballers.
-I have friends who are gay footballers.
I would never say their name, I would never say anything,
but what can they do?
Yeah. Do you think that now,
potentially, it could be an environment that is ready
for a player to come out?
I would love, love, love to say yes.
But really, you know, within football,
have attitudes really changed,
you know? Are the people, you know, at the boards level kind of thing,
are they really changing their attitude?
Will it ever change?
Maybe when I have children, you know, at that point, I think yes.
Within rugby, I think even cricket, they're sports which,
it is bad for me to say, but they're more elegant,
they seem like the fans are more intelligent.
With football, I really don't see anything changing
for the next five years. I just feel like
until a big footballer currently playing decides to be brave,
to say and be who they are, I think we're going to be waiting.
You think that will be the flip,
-when a footballer comes out?
Fashanu came in!
It's almost 20 years since Justin Fashanu died,
but abuse on the terraces is still rife.
And now there is a whole new world of abuse online.
A personal message to Pogba, who is a Manchester United footballer.
"Pogba, a faggot."
And then they've got, "Fellaini, burn this faggot."
Just streams of it.
-"All Arsenal fans are
-faggots, ass bitches, and suck
All these people who are writing this, being gay is the lowest form
of...life on this Earth.
But nobody's stopping it.
Like, say you replace any of these words with a racist comment,
people would comment on it
and people would be negative towards them.
God, "Messi is a faggot."
"No-one gives a shit about what you think.
"Get off the crack, you faggot abortion survivor,
"14-year-old runt rent boy."
It's mad, that, like, you read these and you think,
if there was a guy hiding his sexuality
and wanting to potentially come out,
but afraid of what he's going to go into,
there are people with these views in the stands, week in, week out.
If they think like that and act like that,
what kind of environment within a football ground
is that going to create?
Earlier this year,
a House of Commons committee reported on homophobia in sport.
It discovered that in 2017,
we have more openly gay sports professionals than ever before.
Tom Daley in diving.
Hockey stars Kate and Helen Richardson-Walsh -
the first same-sex married couple to win Olympic golds.
And rugby ref Nigel Owens.
What's your view of the underlying culture and attitudes within rugby,
and do you have any causes for concern?
If somebody was to ask me, is rugby a homophobic sport,
then my answer would be no,
because I couldn't be who I am today and referee at the level I am today
if rugby was that case.
After spending several months questioning people in sport,
the MPs welcomed the steps taken by the industry to address LGBT issues.
However, the report was universally scathing
about homophobia in football.
What is it about football that makes it lag so far behind
The two leading football bodies -
the Premier League and the Football Association -
were asked to give evidence, and it was Greg Clarke,
the chairman of the FA, who caused the biggest stir.
What do you think would happen to a gay player who came out today?
I think there would be significant abuse.
If I was a gay man, why would I expose myself to that?
Alfie's arranged to meet MP Damian Collins...
-..chair of the parliamentary committee.
There is a problem with homophobia in football.
There is a problem with the way fans behave in stadia.
There is clearly a problem, I think, within the culture of the sport,
that no footballer feels comfortable about coming out.
It's not only that there are no current players playing throughout.
There are no gay young players in academies.
-You know, there are no...
..coaches, nothing, you know, so it is all through the game.
Do you also feel then that because there are no openly gay players,
they almost feel that there is no problem and we have nothing to do,
because we have no gay players
which, to me, is a raging sign of warning,
because there are no gay players.
I think the FA know
that there must be gay footballers.
There must be a considerable number of gay footballers.
And I think what the FA want to see
is a change within their sport
so that those footballers feel comfortable being out.
What I don't think the FA know is how to achieve that.
And I think, as well, it is, whilst we can look at the abuse
within the stadia and say that's something, you know, we can hear it,
we can see it, we know who is doing it.
And say, "There are some idiots doing that,
"let's stop them doing it,"
but is that all that's holding people back,
or is it actually something cultural within the sport itself, you know,
within that team environment within the clubs,
and actually the clubs and the football authorities
are not doing enough to really look inside the sport
and look at how... the way the sport is run
may be putting some players off coming out?
My gut feeling is that actually they are glad that there is nobody out,
because they will not know how to deal with it.
A player could pick up a phone and make a phone call tomorrow,
and decide that he has to come out because, you know what,
he can't live his life as a liar.
My fear is, you know,
what the hell has any of the governing bodies
got in their armoury to protect them or to support them?
So, what are Greg Clarke and the FA doing about it?
I'm just cautious of encouraging people to come out
until we've done our part of the bargain
and stamped out that abuse so they can enjoy the football.
After a number of unanswered phone messages and one e-mail,
Alfie's still trying to find out.
We tried to contact you and you did respond to one of our e-mails,
but since then we have had no contact with you,
so I hope to chat to you hopefully next week.
If not, we will call you back,
but thank you for your time.
Take care, buddy, bye.
The thing is, I understand that they are running big organisations,
but also the responsibility that comes with running a big
organisation is staying in touch with not only the grassroots,
but also people who want to kind of make a difference and make a change,
so it is extremely difficult, but, you know,
I didn't get to where I did in my rugby career by giving up,
by falling at the first hurdle.
18 months ago,
the British tabloid claimed two players were poised to come out.
But no-one did and the story disappeared.
Alfie's agent is Emanuele Palladino.
He also represents several footballers.
So, without naming any names,
do you personally know of any footballers
who are hiding their sexuality
within the Football League right now?
-Yes, I do.
And I think it is really difficult.
And I know the lies that they are living,
and I know the fear that they have, and I know they are not happy.
And yet they feel they have got no option.
And I think that is really,
really sad in today's world, that you have to live a lie like that.
How do you feel agents and representatives
what do you feel their view is towards footballers coming out?
I think the default reaction is don't come out,
that football's not ready for you, which I think is a shame.
I think it is very difficult to come out.
You know, they said that a footballer
was going to be coming out, and as a result of that article,
loads of footballers were being tweeted saying,
"Tell me you are not gay, tell me it is not you."
Now, if you are that gay footballer,
you're going to be looking at every single thing online and you're going
to be reading those homophobic tweets and going, "Actually, do you know what? I can't do this."
So, if you had the power to do something within football right now
to create a better environment for an LGBT player to come out,
what is the one thing you would do to change football now?
The million-dollar question!
It's two things. One is,
can the governing body be more vocal in trying to stamp out homophobia?
And two is, can a footballer come out?
Because if a footballer CAN come out,
he can help that campaign by being him.
And it comes back to you.
When you came out, I always said Gareth Thomas is new territory.
Gareth Thomas is blazing a new trail that no-one has done,
and you changed people's minds and perceptions by being you.
But that is not easy. And, you know, there is no magic wand,
but that would be it - governing bodies to improve more,
and a footballer to find the courage.
But, you know, that may never happen.
Oh, it's lovely! Robbie Rogers!
On the entire planet,
there is currently just one openly gay male footballer
playing at the top level.
And Alfie has travelled halfway around the world to Los Angeles
to meet him.
-What's going on?
-Hello, bud, how are you doing, all right?
Come on in, guys.
-Nice humble house!
LA Galaxy star Robbie Rogers is not only a US international,
he also has experience of playing in the UK.
Before coming out in 2013,
he fulfilled a childhood dream of playing in England,
signing for Leeds United.
He was soon taken aback by the levels of abuse in the British game.
A few people start shouting something that other people feel
it's OK to be, like, shouting something, and it's like
this pack mentality where they all start going. And there's
the adrenaline and the aggression, which is so weird to watch sometimes.
I remember being in England and watching young kids feeding off the
aggression of their parents,
which is actually really sad and disgusting to me.
They don't realise how that's affecting someone's life,
over their whole life and their emotional state and their happiness.
You know, they think that they are
hopefully just affecting a game for 90 minutes.
Coping with crowds was tough.
Coping with people on his own side was tougher.
I mean, I remember a coach saying, like,
"Don't pass the ball like a faggot."
That was just so ridiculous that he would be dumb enough to say
-something like this.
-There was discussion is that I heard,
where guys would be next to me on a bike, riding a bike after a game,
just doing a cool down, and they would be, like,
"How disgusting is it that..." "You know, how disgusting, how can a man
"even go through the act of loving another man?"
Like, how disgusting that would be.
And they would be talking about that and I would be there on my bike, like, "Shit. I'm never coming out."
I would get almost like a cramp, like it was almost hard for me
to breathe when someone said something like that
in the locker room because I was so afraid of being,
like, ostracised from the group of guys.
So someone would say something and I'd go out to do a training session,
and I'd just moved to England and I was trying to compete
with these guys who were great footballers and I was, like,
still dealing with that pain in my body from someone saying words.
You don't realise that someone with their words can be so damaging
to your confidence and your soul.
Despairing, and no longer prepared to live a lie,
Robbie quit Britain and turned his back on football.
He returned to the US and came out to his family and friends.
Being honest to myself,
being honest to my family especially was important.
You know, eventually coming out in a more public way
because I still felt like I was still closeted.
Even though at first I was like, "I don't owe anyone anything,"
but I still felt a little bit...
I didn't expect that feeling.
I thought, after I came out to my family and friends,
that I would be kind of free from that, but...
I didn't expect to feel like I still needed to just, like,
write something and post it or wherever.
After I did that, I was like, I felt, like, so free.
Finally out publicly,
a relieved and liberated Robbie resumed his football career
-with LA Galaxy.
-Another run there!
And there's the tie goal! It was Robbie Rogers coming through. 1-1.
One unexpected plus was that, as the only gay top-flight footballer,
he was suddenly a magnet to sponsors.
The honesty is something any brand wants to be connected to.
Yes, I think the younger generation now especially loves connecting
to...honesty, people that are different, that are creative,
that are willing to, you know, stand out.
I think brands are smart and they are starting to, you know,
latch onto that. So I don't think any athletes,
male or female, in any sport,
I don't think they have to fear that, because I think really
there's a lot of brands out there that want to work with athletes,
-and especially ones that stand out in a positive way.
That's America, but in Britain things are very different.
Alfie heads to the headquarters of the players union, the PFA.
Gordon Taylor is the Chief Executive,
and Simone Pound, the head of equalities.
As a body that is there to protect the players,
do you feel that if a professional footballer came out within England
and Wales, that the PFA would have a procedure and a policy there
to protect him?
Well, I hope so, and
football being a team game, it is about offering support
in whatever area.
We talked about other areas that we deal with, with depression, and...
..issues with regard to anti-racism, anti-Semitism,
and we look after the women in the game.
Quite a number of our older players with suffering, need new hips,
or arthritis, so to get back straightaway,
where it is something that we are very much aware of
and the players who have come out are normally players
who have come out once they've retired from the game.
I think Robbie Rogers is still playing.
-Yeah, he is.
-I think... how he felt so much better,
so obviously when you look,
we are to some extent looking at the anniversary of 50 years ago and
legislation, and when you think some of the actual heroes of this country,
Second World War, you know,
different individuals who were gay, and yet,
you know, were vilified, and you think, "What is that about?"
You know, "How could they have to cope with that?"
And so you do feel that sympathy.
It is a good question,
but in answering it I would love the environment to be comfortable enough
so that that would happen.
Do you feel you can create that?
Only because I just feel personally,
from my own story, when I came out...
..as being gay and carried on playing,
there was nothing in place, and that was what really, really scared me.
And for me, I just think if there is something open, a policy open.
You were a pathfinder, and that's what I said, we have looked at how
to judge what happened with regard to yourself,
and in cricket and in other sports,
and tried to take out what has worked.
But, again, what kind of interests me is you are saying
you are learning lessons from other people.
I'm still not really understanding, to be honest, what did you learn?
Just, really, what we learnt from your story, Gareth,
and what you were saying about where we have come from as a game.
And obviously we have worked on this area for a number of years now,
I have been in post for nearly 17 years now,
and can see I think we have actually made huge strides as a game,
with regards to LGBT inclusion and homophobia in particular.
Obviously as the players' union,
it is something that we've really pushed for, in terms of a protocol,
in terms of procedures in and around the game, and obviously your story.
And just really...
..like you did, spoke to the coach,
made sure that your team-mates were supportive, and the...
..rugby associations came out and kind of supported and endorsed their
belief in you as a person, and I think that is really,
you know, best practice,
all that anyone would do, and what we will do as a game.
I don't know whether to laugh or cry.
I am literally dumbfounded, like, I am literally dumbfounded,
because personally if I had been doing a job for 17 years
on controlling the diversity and welfare of players,
then I am sure as hell, if I was asked a question...
which is such a current topic at the moment,
about a potential footballer coming out to be gay,
I would be on it. I would have every point,
I would answer every question,
because I would have been prepared for it.
And there is a good old saying in sport,
is failure to prepare is preparing to fail.
And this, to me, is an absolute failure.
Alfie tries again to speak to Greg Clarke, chairman of the FA.
I am personally ashamed that they don't feel safe to come out.
I tell you what, I wouldn't want
to be like a multi-million pound business
trying to get hold of them to do some sponsorship deal or something,
because...very difficult to get hold of, or maybe it's just me!
Everything I went through out there...
..was nothing compared to the demons inside.
Alfie starred in a high-profile ad campaign about his coming out.
I turned to my team-mates.
Telling them I was gay was the toughest thing I've ever done.
But when I needed them the most,
they were there for me.
For me, it was such an honour to have my story associated with it,
but I suppose as a brand, as a company,
did you feel it might kind of weaken your stance in any way?
No, we didn't. And I'll tell you why,
because we look for stories that are about strength of character
and about bonds of friendship
that ultimately have a kind of positive effect on the world.
-That's what we found so inspiring about YOUR story.
Did you feel, as a company, it was a positive?
Absolutely. Your film scored better, like,
significantly better than our average Guinness performance,
and so that is comparing to some pretty successful,
very famous Guinness advertising.
-And this scored higher than it.
And I think it's because people were attracted to your human story.
Obviously what I'm doing at the moment is, I'm kind of in this world
of football, which is a very new world to me,
and is probably more focused on sponsorship,
on advertising than any other sport.
And I think there is a lot of fear for people wanting to be themselves
within sport, because advertising...
..is such a big part of it and they don't want to lose their attachment
to their brands. Now, if a footballer was to come out
within that game,
do you feel like they would be more of an attractive proposition?
I think there would be brands that would be knocking down the door
to want to work with the first person that did that,
because, the same reasons that we wanted to work with you,
because you were the first, you were a role model.
-And it made for an unbelievable personal story
as a result of doing that, because of the burden of being first
Last year, a survey found that 72% of fans had heard homophobic abuse
on the terraces.
All of the football authorities
have financed campaign group Kick It Out to create a free app
for reporting abuse.
Yet across the whole of last season, the app was used just 19 times.
Kick It Out's chief executive officer is Roisin Wood.
Now, I can look after myself, but I was at a football match
and I thought, do you know what,
there's homophobic abuse going on here and I would find that extremely
difficult and extremely intimidating to do anything about it.
It's like, you know, it just seemed like a really scary environment.
It is very, very intimidating to go,
"Hi, there is a big guy over there, and he's shouting homophobic abuse.
-"Can you do something about it?"
-Or if there's 100 little guys,
-Exactly. Of course it is.
You would be naive not to recognise that.
So, do you feel the campaigns that you've set up,
do you feel that's creating a better environment, at this moment,
for football grounds?
To me, could we do more?
Yes, of course we can do more.
We could do more, the football bodies can do more,
the clubs can do more.
So, why isn't it happening?
-That's the thing, though.
-I think it's happening.
It's like everything, there's 92 clubs.
I think some clubs are brilliant at it.
-I think some clubs are not that good at it and there's ones in
the middle that are OK at it.
Sometimes clubs, I think, are a bit afraid about doing the wrong thing.
So rather than do the wrong thing, they'll do nothing.
To me, the only way this will ever,
ever be treated is to have a whole-game approach because one,
people can't do on their own. Certainly Kick It Out can't do it
-on its own.
-We're the campaigning body but it needs the buy-in from the clubs.
It needs the buy-in from everybody.
And they need all...not to tick the box, and that's what makes me crazy.
They need to take it seriously.
And I think that's the problem.
Keen to see how individual clubs control homophobia,
Alfie has been invited to Cardiff City for an end-of-season clash with
City have their own alternative to the Kick It Out app -
a live reporting system advertised throughout the stadium.
Anybody, anywhere in the ground can see the signs.
They can send a text, they can make a call.
The call is then - or text - is answered in the control room.
If they want to keep it anonymous, they can.
We can then act on the information we get,
look at the system. So we've got access to the ticketing system,
see which area of the ground they are in,
and take appropriate action from there.
And it is hot, so we get it there and then and we can try to act on it
during the game, if something is happening.
Is this, do you feel, more of a relevance than the Kick It Out app?
We've got the option to act on the information we get on match day,
whereas most of the time with something reported
via the Kick It Out app,
you get afterwards and then you've got to try and identify where the
people were sat, who the people they were complaining against are.
We've got more of an opportunity to try and stop things happening
-further down the line, and there and then.
Match-day security is down to stadium manager Wayne Nash.
-How are you doing.
-How are you?
-Yeah, good, man.
-Good stuff. Busy here, boss?
Wayne coordinates the police and stewards
from the event control room.
So this is a multi-agency control room.
Multiple CCTV cameras monitor all points,
both inside and outside the ground.
If you look up and see a camera, it will make you feel a bit safer.
Especially when there is an incident,
you look how tight we can zoom in.
You can see the motif on people's shirts.
We have had some cracking stories where people are misbehaving,
we can go on the system, find out the person's seat number,
add them in, he will bring up his ticketing details
and I can ring his mobile.
And this guy is picking up his mobile up and I'm saying,
"Do us a favour. Your behaviour is out of order.
-"Give it a rest."
-Whilst physical abuse can be monitored remotely,
verbal abuse requires direct intervention.
And this is where the stewards step in and handle any abuse they hear.
# ..going down and the Mags are going up... #
Tonight, they will be dealing with 23,000 fans.
The point I thought about is when they walk through the turnstiles,
everybody is getting searched for kind of weapons or, you know,
something that could cause damage.
And the reality is, there's things that can cause damage that you can't
find on them, there's words they can use that come out of their mouth,
and that is something that is uncontrollable,
really, until people get in there.
Because they can sneak
their voices and their opinions in,
and then it's how it is controlled when they are within the ground.
The chief steward is Mark Jenkins.
Within ten minutes of kick-off, there is an incident.
We've got one racist comment which was made to one of our players.
It was witnessed by a supervisor of ours.
They are actually talking to the gentleman now.
I spoke to the police to warn them.
Debbie, you will have to get a witness statement for that one.
-And it was against Harris?
-So it was against a player?
It was against a player, yeah.
Called him a black...
The offender is escorted from the stadium
and it is now a police matter.
If he goes to court with that, he will be banned from football.
Newcastle should ban him anyway. We'll inform Newcastle.
-And they will ban him next, you know,
he will be gutted now for next year, won't he?
-But that's great.
Let me ask you an honest question, then.
You know he got banned for making a racist comment
because there is no racism in football.
-Do you think, like, in there...
..not you, maybe one of the other stewards,
would they treat this in the exact same way
if it was a homophobic comment?
If I'm truthful, I would like to think that...
But the reality is...
I would like to think 100% they would.
-All of them.
If I'm truthful, you may not get that.
But we're not all perfect.
Listen, no, mate.
But I would like to think that everyone would.
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
I think Mark is probably the first real,
honest person to say how the reality
of trying to police homophobic abuse is, and where on the radar it is,
in the fact that somebody was kicked out of the ground for racism,
for racist abuse. And the reality would have been if that was
homophobic abuse, it probably wouldn't have happened.
So he's the first person to give us a real answer of what's going on -
not seeing a TV camera in front of him and thinking,
"This is what I should say, so this is what I will say."
He said, "This is what I think it is, and that's the reality of it."
But what I WILL say, and what I appreciate now,
it is definitely a minority.
Which to me, should make it easier to stamp it out.
Lose this minority from the game -
nobody really loses, everybody wins.
So I'm not understanding how this minority is still able
to create just such chaos.
There are, though, some grassroots initiatives to improve the game.
Football V Homophobia -
a pressure group that organises an annual month of action,
highlighting issues across the game.
Its impact is growing.
But currently only a third of all professional clubs support it.
Probably the most famous campaign is Rainbow Laces -
originated by gay rights charity Stonewall,
and this year sponsored by the Premier League.
It encourages the UK's 5,000 professional footballers
to wear rainbow laces on one Saturday of each season.
It is up to the individual whether they take part.
The majority choose not to.
What about the LGBT awareness campaigns
run by gay fans themselves?
12 of the Premier League teams have had LGBT fan groups officially
recognised by their clubs.
Some clubs allow banners.
But that's no guarantee against abuse.
This week I was with a female partner
and we were walking over the bridge,
to the match. And she kissed me goodbye, really briefly,
not like a make-out session or anything like that.
It was a real brief peck.
And instantly there were some lads walking past and we got,
"Oh, what is that? That is disgusting. Did they just ... kiss?"
I'm still very uneasy about holding hands or anything like that.
Because having been attacked a couple of times,
-for me, it's too dangerous.
What worries me and what concerns me is that everyone, like,
has their own agenda, so everyone pulls in their own direction.
And they are all doing good things, but them things are not spread
across football, they are just individual for that ground.
And then you go to another ground, and there might be nothing.
Or you go to another ground and there might be something
completely different. You know, what I feel should happen
is an umbrella law,
which basically, I feel, the people have the power to do that, the FA,
the Premier League, they have the power to say to all clubs,
all stewards, "This is what you should do.
"Or this is what has to be done in every ground."
These are thoughts that Alfie would like to share with Greg Clarke,
chairman of the FA.
We may not have figured out how to crack it yet,
but there's a deep loathing of that sort of behaviour
If only they could compare notes.
-ANSWER PHONE MESSAGE:
-Hello. I'm sorry, but about the person
you've called is not available.
Please leave your message after the tone.
-It's Gareth Thomas here.
A call-back would be much appreciated, mate.
If not, I'll try you again. Take care, buddy. Bye.
I feel like I'm working in a call centre,
trying to sell somebody something that they really don't want.
But, you know what, it takes five seconds for me to pick up a phone
and keep calling. And if I take five seconds out of my day
every now and again, then so be it.
I pick the phone up and I keep calling them.
Until one of them has the balls to either say, "Yeah, do you know,
"we'll meet you."
Or say, "Do you know what? No, it doesn't interest us."
Either way, it's a definitive answer.
Until then, Alfie is taking matters into his own hands.
It just seems to me that people who are at the top of the game are not
interested. And if I was a player,
and as we know for a fact that there are Premier League footballers
who are gay and closeted, then, to me,
this just shows a sign that the top of the game doesn't really care.
It doesn't want to make a change,
it doesn't want to actually stamp down and do something,
because as far as they're concerned,
it's a very minimal problem
and they've got a bigger issue to deal with -
and that's keeping the game of football, probably making money.
So rather than just talk about it now, I feel it is time,
from what I've learned, to do something about it.
So we're going to see lawyers to try and get some kind of charter
drawn up. Take this charter to the likes of the FA,
the Premier League, to the clubs, to the owners,
to say, within our ground...
..this form of abuse is not tolerated and will be punished.
To see if they will sign it, because to me
there is no reason why they shouldn't sign it.
The charter Alfie has in mind is a code of practice against homophobia,
as already used in other European leagues.
-Hello, bud. How are you doing?
-Not bad. You?
Yeah, good. Good to see you.
He has chosen international lawyer Gabriele Giambrone to help.
I think we need to change the culture completely from the top.
I mean, you heard an interview by the FA chairman this year.
He is the one who said this is not the right time
for a gay footballer to come out.
And this is coming from the top of the FA.
If the chairman of Microsoft or Facebook would say,
it's not the right time for one of my employees
to come out as being gay,
he would be sued for thousands and thousands of pounds.
So, it feels like football is in a galaxy
miles away, with its own rules, which it's not.
Do you have some kind of policy or code of conduct
within other countries, and the UK is way behind
and it doesn't even know it?
The UK is maybe behind and maybe doesn't even know it.
There are countries, for example, like Spain or Italy,
that have stricter rules,
because there is a code, and the code applies to everybody.
I would say that for sure
the Italian, for example, system or the Spanish system have
Whether the rules
are followed or not, that's another issue.
But at least the rules are there.
Even though it might sound complicated,
it's actually really simple.
You're just giving people a human right to be able to be themselves
and not be discriminated against for it.
And if you are, then you break the law.
Right, Gareth. I think that there are two issues here.
The code of practice in itself
is a self-regulating code that clubs may or may not adopt.
But the issue is that unless there is serious legal consequences of
breaching those rules,
they would just simply not be implemented by the clubs.
So my suggestion would be, for example,
just to change the Football Offences Act 1991.
I mean, this act is about 27 years old now.
If you are chanting racial abuse at the moment,
under the 1991 act, that is an offence.
If you say anything homophobic, under the act -
so we're referring to the 1991 act - that is NOT an offence.
-So it is probably just about time we can revisit it.
Parliament can revisit it
and introduce homophobia as well as racism as one of the issues
that could lead to the committal of an offence.
While changing the law may even take Alfie a while,
he believes that a code of practice is achievable in the short term.
Really happy. I think a fantastic meeting.
It's great to have something to focus on.
But also this thing we've got to focus on
has a possible outcome as well.
So it's great, it's given a whole...
It's given me a whole new energy.
I've really found something to fight for.
It's the end of the football season,
and Brighton have been promoted to the Premier League.
Some supporters of their arch-rivals, Crystal Palace,
have gone online...
to congratulate them.
One I've just got up here is two Brighton players,
one is giving the other one a kiss on the cheek.
And the guy has wrote, "Typical of this club."
So the other one I have gone to is again from a Crystal Palace fan,
which starts off with saying...
"Glenn trying his hardest not to get bummed by the bender brigade."
And when I play that...
'Oh! Oh, help me.
'Let me get out. Oh, Christ! No! Stay away!
'Don't touch me.'
You wouldn't even expect that from children in a playground in 2017.
It is being retweeted.
It's been liked.
So in response,
the LGBT group of Crystal Palace fans, called Proud And Palace,
have felt that they have to make a response for this, and it reads...
"It isn't just banter, it's offensive.
"We won't accept it. We won't tolerate it
"and we will actively support the club in addressing it."
So, in response to the statement made by the LGBT group...
which says, "It was only a matter of time before this got out of hand and
"people were banging the gay PC drum.
"I don't think many people who join in
"the 'Brighton take it up the bum' chants
"have any real malicious intent."
And then underneath, "The fact that Brighton find
"being called gay insulting, makes THEM the homophobic ones!"
Imagine climbing inside his head for ten minutes.
I would love... I would give my right arm, right,
to sit down in a room with some of these people,
just to, like, understand their views.
Or even just to see them.
"Hello, everyone. My name is Gareth Thomas,
"and I'm a former rugby player."
So Alfie adds his own post to the forum.
"I believe everyone is entitled to their opinion,
"but should also be brave enough to defend their opinions
"On that note, I would really like to invite some of you to meet and
"exchange opinions on this subject."
And I will sign in as my name
because I am brave enough to stand for my opinions
and put my name to my opinions.
I have thought about putting a kiss,
but I wouldn't...cos it's football.
So here goes, I'm about to post it into the unknown.
Back of the net!
After 16 weeks of calls, e-mails and texts,
the FA is still avoiding his request
for an interview with chairman Greg Clarke.
I have a strong connection to this, and it is something
that I passionately, I passionately care about.
And that's why, you know,
I want to speak to people
who have the power to be able to make a bit of change, maybe.
But the Premier League -
the richest league in the world - have offered a meeting.
Thanks, mate. Cheers, man. Cheers, buddy. Bye-bye.
Alfie sets out with a list of questions -
top of which is, will the Premier League sign up
to his code of conduct?
Chief Executive Bill Bush has laid down one condition for the meeting -
no cameras allowed.
Which makes me very dubious and sceptical.
And I hope he can understand, er, you know, why I feel that way.
So I'm going to push him on some questions,
as to their responsibility for players, and what are they doing
to hold that responsibility to players.
But, also, it seems to me like a bit of a copout because I think maybe
he understands I know more about this subject than he does,
so he thinks when I talk to the camera about my interview about him,
I could probably put it in a better way than he potentially could.
So that is one thing. That is one of my theories, but it is definitely
interesting to me and very much seems like a copout
as to why he wouldn't talk on camera.
-Hello. It's Gareth Thomas,
I have a meeting with Bill Bush.
Alfie goes in, the camera remains outside.
The meeting lasted over 40 minutes.
The standard answer is, you know, "We're in line with Stonewall.
"We're in line with Kick it Out...
"Football Against Homophobia."
Now, all of these are kind of campaigns...
..that show awareness.
They are not campaigns that are really going forward and actually
stopping homophobic abuse going on.
I would like to know why this is all being allowed,
why this is all being tolerated
and why this all seems to be OK and nothing is being done about it.
Those ultimately are the answers that I was looking for.
And being told that, you know, you're in line with an organisation,
or they have passed this on to a campaign
is not the answer I was looking for
from people with ridiculous amounts of power within the game.
Alfie's had some responses from the Palace fans.
"Some mincers just don't know when to stop.
"There's only one Gareth Thomas, one Gareth Thomas.
"He used to be straight until he shagged his team-mate
"Now living in a felcher's fairyland."
Um... It's just rubbish, it's just absolutely pathetic.
This one now has got
quite a long one. It says, "Make no mistake and be warned,
"the BBC and Gareth are out to do a hit-piece on EPL football fans
"to further their aggressive gay agenda.
"are agenda-driven political activists
"and they already know exactly what their documentary is
"going to say. I am calling YOU out, Gareth.
"Fuck off, away from our beloved football where, everyone,
"including gays, are welcome to scream and shout
"and unload their weekly stress without
"fear of you bullying them with your PC propaganda."
It's not about, you know,
I've come on behalf of, like, the LGBT community.
I've come on behalf of somebody who knows what it's like to be in
a sporting environment and have to lie to everybody,
and the fear of potentially telling the truth.
"I personally think the BBC should do a bit of research
"on how many paedophiles are gay.
"It's probably why Brighton are considering erecting a massive fence
"around their family section."
Like, that is just...
The fact that I have even read that actually...
like, makes me feel sick.
And, again, you can imagine what kind of chant
that could turn into it.
We've got another one here that says,
"Amazed how juvenile and pathetic people are on here.
"These school yard taunts are ridiculous.
"I am assuming some of you have kids.
"What on earth would your response be if they turned out to be gay?"
Again, she or he has summed it up perfectly there.
And the reality is that, do you know what,
this is not just me saying this any more.
This is like other fans of yours.
Because if you take these opinions into the football ground,
do you think that is OK?
Do you think that is fine?
So I'm kind of still at the place where I was at the start.
I'd like to meet them, I'd like to chat with them,
I'd like to discuss that with them.
Because if they assume that this documentary is already, you know,
already decided and already made up,
then come and chat with me and change my mind.
Alfie posts an invite, naming a time and a place.
So I am going to be at Graces Bar & Grill in Beckenham
on Wednesday 21st of June at 7pm.
So hopefully see you there.
So, the table is now set.
And I sit...
..and I wait.
You know, you want someone like David Beckham to stand up and say,
"Look, it's all right to be gay.
"Who cares?" You want someone like Messi to say it.
And then I feel that would make, like, young people be like,
"Well, maybe it's all right to be gay in football."
We need the governing bodies
to just increase their awareness and
visibility and their fight against it.
Because that could be the difference.
That could be the 1% that tips a footballer from saying,
"Do you know what, I've got everything and now I'm going to go."
And it's never going to be a perfect environment.
He is never going to feel ready, but he is going to think,
"There's enough in place that the risks are as low as they could be,
"let's go for it."
After an hour, it's clear
Alfie won't be exchanging views with his online abusers.
At this point, I can actually say
that whoever they are behind the messages are cowards.
They've called me a hell of a lot worse names.
And I have accepted it, and I've said, "Do you know what, that's OK.
"If that's your opinion, fine. But discuss your opinion with me."
So, empty chairs...
not filled by cowards.
He never heard back from FA chairman Greg Clarke, either.
But Alfie HAS heard from his lawyers.
They've drawn up and sent him the code of practice.
There are 17 points for the code
but, for me, the most important points are these.
"All match-day materials, programmes,
"tickets and season tickets
"to highlight the zero tolerance of homophobia
"and how to report abuse if observed.
"A pre-match video to be played at every football ground prior to the
"match, stating the zero tolerance of the homophobia charter.
"A minimum three-year ban for any fan found guilty
"of homophobic abuse."
So I am going to send this to Bill Bush of the Premier League
and Greg Clarke of the FA. I'm going to send it to the Football League,
the PFA and all 92 clubs within England and Wales.
All I know is, we've tried our hardest, we've tried our best.
This is what we have come up with.
Hopefully it will have been worthwhile.
Gareth "Alfie" Thomas asked many questions
over the course of his investigation.
There is one final one he's asking himself.
If he were a gay footballer today...
..would he come out?
I would love to come out
because I would challenge every dickhead who sits behind a desk
with a shirt and tie to say, "Right, mate.
"Right, OK, now will you support me?
"Here I am. NOW support me.
"Now show me what you've learned."
And I would boot the door open to the PFA
and boot the door open to the Premier League and I would say,
"I am standing in front of you now, bud.
"Now what are you going to do about it?"
Fifty years ago, homosexual acts between consenting male adults were decriminalised. In this documentary, former Wales and Lions rugby union captain Gareth 'Alfie' Thomas - arguably the most famous gay international sports star - takes a hard-hitting personal look at what he sees as the last bastion of open homophobia in sport - professional football.
Earlier this year a committee of MPs published a report on homophobia in sport. Whilst it praised many changes for the good, reflecting sport's acceptance and inclusion of LGBT people over the past decade, it was notably scathing and damning of football. There are around 5,000 professional footballers in the UK, so it's statistically implausible that none are gay. Yet there are no openly gay male footballers. Indeed, only one male professional footballer, Justin Fashanu, has ever come out while playing the game. He killed himself in 1998. So what is preventing gay footballers from coming out?
From Cardiff City to the House of Commons, from Arsenal to LA, Alfie meets fans, players and managers, as well as pressure groups, lawyers and police. He encounters open homophobia in the stands and suffers personal abuse by football fans online. Alfie also tries his best to meet those who run the game - but is forced to play continual 'cat and mouse' with the heads of the FA and the Premier League. Why do they seem so keen to avoid him?