On Monday, having worked alongside Gareth Thomas (former Welsh international rugby captain) and his campaign, I will present to the House of Commons a Bill that seeks to amend and extend the Football Offences Act 1991 to include homophobic abuse.
In recent years, both Gareth and the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, which I chair, have endeavoured to shine a light on homophobia in football. In 2017, Gareth made the BBC documentary Gareth Thomas v Homophobia, Hate in the Beautiful Game¸ during which he witnessed the institutionalised homophobia that still exists on the terraces and in the boardroom. In the same year, the Select Committee published its report into tackling homophobia in sport, which similarly condemned the extent of homophobia within football.
The time has come to move from acknowledgement to action. That is why Gareth and I are seeking to amend the Football Offences Act 1991 to make chanting or gesturing of an indecent nature with reference to sexual orientation or gender identity against the law. When the Football Offences Act came into force, it made racialist abuse within football stadia illegal. The proposed amendment, which I will present to the House of Commons on Monday, seeks to extend that legal protection to LGBT+ players and fans.
Whilst, if enacted, the Bill would protect LGBT+ fans and players in the UK, recent events, including at the World Cup, have once again demonstrated that homophobic abuse takes place at football matches the world over. FIFA and other sports governing bodies should take the necessary steps to ensure that homophobic abuse will never be tolerated and that action will be taken against people that engage in activities like these, no matter where the game is played. We hope that the Bill will soon become law and will contribute to making football a sport that is truly open to everyone.