GOAL talks to two reporters about what it is like working in an environment that is still dominated by straight white men
Any mention of football and LGBT+ diversity on social media will almost inevitably be met with an avalanche of offensive responses.
The inability of those platforms to clamp down effectively on hate speech is a major problem in society.
The Beautiful Game is trying to change what can still be a hostile environment for some people with initiatives such as this month’s Football v Homophobia campaign.
However, there is clearly a long way to go, given there are no openly gay male professional players – an anomaly that highlights the fear of coming out that pervades the sport.
Indeed, homophobia is also an issue in the media, where opinions and coverage from anyone other than a straight white male can sometimes be dismissed or sneered at.
“It’s not necessarily from colleagues and people around the press room, but from people watching press conferences, there can be a view that this guy doesn’t know what he’s talking about,” journalist and host of the Blue Moon Podcast David Mooney tells GOAL.
“It’s not explicitly said but it’s partly: Well, he’s gay, so he’s not a proper football fan.
“Not being accepted because it’s viewed as not being your arena – that fear is always there. It’s not a debilitating fear, though, it’s not going to stop me from doing anything.”
I’ve seen the joke a lot online through the Euros that “this much football on TV is homophobic” and I think it’s important to say that that sort of attitude was just as much a part of me growing up thinking I couldn’t like football as a gay guy as any hostility in the sport did.
Still, such prejudicial, ignorant views can obviously lead to some people in the industry deciding against discussing their social lives.
However, like any workplace, colleagues become friends in journalism, so its only natural that people take an interest in one another.
“Your personal life just comes up within chats and even something as simple as What did you do at the weekend?, eight or so years ago when I was starting out in this trade, I might have said I went out with my mates as opposed to I went out my with boyfriend, which I will quite happily say now,” BBC commentator Mike Minay tells GOAL.
“I used to be guarded and its the same as any LGBT+ person has when you’re on the road of coming out, you fear the reaction.
“But now if I’m asked something as simple as Have you got a girlfriend?, I’m happy answering “No, boyfriend”, but it took a while to get comfortable saying that.
“Still, if there’s a problem now, it’s on them, not on me. Any negative reaction is on them, not on me and my progress.”
The winners continue at the 2020 North West Football Awards [email protected] @MikeMinay has been named Football Journalist or Broadcaster of the Season ????????????#NWFA2020 pic.twitter.com/vTT8GIXlkb
Football coverage has often come with its own shorthand, with the traditional traits of masculinity heralded as much as any moment of skill or individual quality.
Unfortunately, it can also shape the media landscape, and while Mooneys experience of working among the press pack has been largely positive, there have been situations where its been made painfully clear that ignorant attitudes still exist.
“Ive overheard comments – homophobic and transphobic comments – and there are sometimes things that you hear that will make you feel uncomfortable,” he says.
“Often, its not intentionally hostile but I feel like that the homophobic and transphobic comments were and that the person that made them was in a space where they felt they were among like-minded individuals.
“So, thats quite alarming and it can be off-putting. But the only way that changes is by allies standing up and making it known that its not acceptable and by having more diverse press conferences and newsrooms
“That goes for all media, though. You look at the number of LGBT+ people in football media and its growing, which is a good thing, but everyone has to work together to make it a more inclusive environment.
“I dont think its football media thats the problem. I think society has a problem and football media is reflective of that.”
There is also a worrying perception that the media is obssessed with wanting out gay footballers.
Consequently, professionals remain guarded around dressing rooms and sexuality is not spoken about with the same freedom as in other walks of life.
Minay works with former footballers as co-commentators and says that they can find the openness in the media environment refreshing.
Jurgen Klopp met with @LFC_LGBT this week to discuss the incident of homophobic chanting at Norwich City. The pair discuss the impact of such chants on LGBT+ supporters, why they should not occur again, and the importance of inclusivity. #RedTogether pic.twitter.com/J5Axce1PqR
“It makes me smile because it was quite a nice reaction in a way but the first pundit I ever told I was gay said: Oh thats different, Minay adds.
“Theyd been in this very heterosexual football world all their life and then they asked questions and it was nice. Anyone Ive dropped into conversations with, Ive never had a negative reaction.
“I understand that the modern day footballer is worried about what might happen but the reason I want to talk about it is Ive had positive experiences.
“Realistically, I think the only thing people care about is: Can I present a good show and can I call the action on the pitch? Who Im going home to is irrelevant and thats how it should be.”
As lifelong football fans, neither Mooney or Minay have regrets about going into the industry and would tell young reporters not to be put off following their dreams if they want a career covering the game.
“Be who you are and do what you want to do,” Minay says. “Its all about your ability as a journalist and being gay wont affect that.”
Mooney adds: “I had thought for years its going to be either two sides of my life that never intersect or it will be one side of life that will have to be stopped.
“Obviously, you cant change who you are, so it was probably always going to be football that changes.”