Hibs Chief Executive Leeann Dempster has stated her beliefs that Scotland is ready for a publicly gay footballer. Campaign group Football vs Homophobia Scotland believe that her beliefs can come true.
Having realised she was gay in her 20s, Dempster has since been in a civil relationship since 2007. She firmly believes that this nation’s footballing leagues are ‘ready’ for a gay footballer.
She told the BBC in May: “You are always going to get people who revert – you are never going to get rid of these people. But the vast majority, because of things like equal marriage and the progressive laws here, would be fine.
“There are obviously gay footballers, many of them. One in 10 of the population [is gay], something like that. Well, there are 11 players on the field…”
“There will be people out there finding it difficult reconciling what they are feeling and it’s incumbent on people like me to say ‘follow your instinct and trust in civic society because most folk are good’.”
Football vs Homophobia Scotland believe this can happen
Football vs Homophobia Scotland aims to tackle all discrimination towards the gay community within Scottish football, at all levels.
FvH Scotland are currently working with the SFA to produce a strategy that will help clubs tackle this discrimination within Scottish football. They also currently work with Kilmarnock, Rangers, Clyde and Ross County.
Spokesperson Sirri Topping believes that Hibs chief Dempster’s hopes can become a reality. She told NTOF: “I think Scottish society is quite progressive. We’ve more good folks than we have bad and the majority of people would get behind a player.
“I do feel, however, there is group of keyboard warriors and such like who’d be critical of something like that. You can’t stop these people. Whenever we even post things on Twitter we get negative responses sometimes.
“I’d imagine they would be the same people who’d be critical of a player if they did come out. I do think the majority of Scotland would support a player if this happened.
“The real question is how things progress when a player does come out”.
Problems will be there and fans have to play their part
It’s difficult to tell if some of the things stopping players coming out as gay in sport are real. It is undoubted though that in some shape or form, homophobia is still very present in football.
Justin Fashanu is the only openly gay footballer to have played in Scotland. He featured for Airdrie and took in a spell at Hearts in the 90s. He tragically took his own life in 1998.
Topping is aware of the big problems with homophobia in Scottish sport and football. She believes fans have a big say in changing this culture.
She said: “There’s actually new research come out that doesn’t paint Scotland in a very good light. It’s called Outsport research and it has shown almost a third of Scotland’s LGBTI respondents refrain from a certain sport because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
“The sport respondents often refrain from the most is football and that was 41%. Although football topped the board in almost all of the EU countries that responded, it was particularly high in Scotland.
“That figure was 14% above the EU total. This shows there is a clear affect of homophobia in this country. There is a perception at the very least that Scottish football, in comparison to other sports, is homophobic, biphobic, transphobic and you can see there is levels of that.
“We’ve heard reports that a lot of it comes from spectators. It’s obviously easier practically to go into a club and educate players and staff. It’s harder to do that with fans.
“Changing the culture of homophobia in football is a huge thing to change. A lot of it has to start with the fans and calling it out when it’s safe to do so. If we have more people calling it out then you’re more likely to get a culture change. A lot of this starts with the fans but they aren’t the only problem.”