Joey Barton comments on homophobia in football; praises Arsenal

Queens Park Rangers midfielder tackles the problem of prejudice in sport.

Paddy Power and Stonewall recently teamed up to begin the Rainbow Laces campaign, with great success.

Over 52 clubs used the laces last year to show support for homosexual footballers but Stonewall believe the game needs to changed as "homophobia on the terraces is still rife" - and so the campaign is back for a second year.

With FA backing and even bigger clubs helping to promote the campaign, a number of elite-level stars have already "done their bit" with senior level Gunners like Mikel Arteta, Per Mertesacker, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Lukas Podolski a number of those using the rainbow laces.

Commenting on the issue of homophobia in football, renowned Twitterer, footballing philosopher and influential Queens Park Rangers midfielder Joey Barton moved to praise his own club, West Ham United and particularly Arsenal for the manner in which they have shown their support.

"It was great to see so many clubs and so many players get involved, and I think that’s made it more impactful, and helped us reach more people," he said on his official website. "It shows that football cares about its supporters and key issues in society, we’ve helped to shine a light on something that affects huge numbers of fans around the world.

"I’m really proud of what QPR did with last season’s campaign, but the majority of Premier League clubs were slow to get involved.

"This year though, many more Premier League clubs have supported the campaign, and Arsenal have been leading the charge. They worked with Stonewall to create a pretty funny promotional film, and they somehow managed to get Samuel L Jackson, Eve and Lewis Hamilton to turn up for publicity."

Barton also touched on the way Arsenal "help celebrate fan diversity" as the club set up The Gay Gooners - an official Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender supporters group.

"It’s been around for just over a year and they were the first club to have an official presence at London’s annual Gay Pride parade. Arsenal staff also got involved in a game against Stonewall FC, one of an increasing number of gay and gay-friendly clubs participating in the London leagues."

Barton hopes that the Rainbow Laces campaign can go on to emulate the work achieved by the Kick It Out campaign, which has helped boot racism from the stands into touch.

"Over the years a lot of work has been done within the game to get rid of racism, and we’ve made great strides. 30 years ago racial abuse from the terraces happened every week, but now you can’t imagine anyone using the n-word, chucking bananas on the pitch or making monkey chants at a ground in this country. Not even at Millwall!

"That sort of behaviour is just no longer accepted by the authorities, and most importantly, it’s not accepted by the fans. But casual verbal homophobia is still rife in the stands. Pull out of a tackle and you’re a ‘poof’. Overplay an injury and you’re told to stop ‘acting like a fucking queer’.

"And I’ll be honest: it isn’t just the fans. Players use the same type of language on the pitch and on the training ground.

"It’s this off-the-cuff linguistic intolerance and thoughtlessness that makes the football industry in general, and football stadiums specifically, so intimidating for LGBT fans. I can’t imagine a gay couple feeling so comfortable at the acceptance of the football community that they’d be happy to wander down Wembley Way hand in hand, can you?"

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