Interview
Matt signs charter
Wycombe Wanderers midfielder Matt Bloomfield is a Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) representative and, back in October 2011, on behalf of his club, became the first player to sign the Government Charter for Action to tackle homophobia and transphobia in football – a move which scores of other players and clubs then followed. The 28-year-old took time out of his busy schedule - which even included getting ready to wed his fiancée - to speak to the Justin Campaign’s Hayley Paterson about his reasons for backing The Justin Campaign and why he believes that educating people is the first step to kicking homophobia out of football for good.

How did you hear about The Justin Campaign?

At the back of last year, I went to a pre-launch event for Lesbian Gay Bisexual Trans (LGBT) History Month 2012 at The Oval cricket ground and met the guys from The Justin Campaign. I was invited because I am a PFA representative for Wycombe and I signed the Government Charter for Action on behalf of Wanderers. We were the first club to do that and I was more than happy to be the one representing that fact. It was a very proud moment for me and I’ll be attending more meetings in future. If mine and the club’s involvement somehow manages to get at least one person on-board, then that is the way forward.

Why are you backing The Justin Campaign and the fight to kick out homophobia in football?

It is something I believe in. My uncle is gay and our family have been very open about it, there’s no bad feeling between us because we see it as being ‘the norm’. It’s never been an issue and I am really close to him. We’ve accepted it as a family and my uncle is just like anybody else, I love him and so does all my family. I would hate to think that my uncle could be the victim of unnecessary abuse and that’s why these campaigns are important.

What do you think about the state of homophobia in football and how can we stop it?

It seems to me that homophobia is still an issue, particularly in football. Whether the lads like it or not, we are role models and anything we do, children will copy and learn from us. So, we need to be supporting issues such as The Justin Campaign because it could make a massive impact on a wider scale. It saddens me that there is still prejudice, especially in football, whether it’s racism or homophobia. Why should somebody feel that they have to hide and live their lives behind closed doors? It’s 2012 and we need to get with the times.

Do you think it is a football club’s role to be backing causes such as The Justin Campaign?

It is important that football clubs and players get on-board with campaigns like yours because as I said, we are role models and a lot of the lads have kids so they need to be educating them and showing that it is important to be open-minded. Kids will follow what you do, whether it’s buy the boots you’re wearing or anything like that, so it is massively important that we get behind The Justin Campaign and show these children and all football supporters that we want to get rid of homophobia in sport. There will hopefully be a time in football when players are open about their sexuality. There will come a point when we have openly gay players playing for top clubs, it may take time to get to that point but I’m sure it will happen and we should be supportive.

As a player, have you experienced homophobic abuse from supporters/travelling fans/the dressing room?

I’ve not heard any homophobic comments from the stands, I think I have been quite lucky. At an LGBT forum I was talking to a fan there who told me that people still use homophobic language because they see it as acceptable, but yet they didn’t tolerate racism. It seems it’s acceptable to call someone ‘gay’ in a derogatory way but they won’t stand for racism – it’s all the same type of abuse in my eyes, so that surprised me. As I say, I’ve been lucky and not heard any homophobic comments from the stands but I remember all of the abuse Sol Campbell suffered when he transferred from Spurs to Arsenal and that was totally unacceptable.

If a player opened up to you about his sexuality, how would you react?

It would not be a problem for me at all. I think it is important for players to be open with their team-mates because we’re there to support each other. I think we have to be there to help players and if they opened up to me then I wouldn’t treat them any differently.

Wycombe Wanderers has been a huge campaigner against homophobia in football, is that important to you?

Wycombe is the type of club that is a big community and a bit like a family. We’re big on coaching in the community, getting kids involved and promoting its multicultural values. It prides itself on being accepting of all walks of life and giving people the opportunity to be a part of what the club has to offer. I do really like that in this club and I think every club should have the same message.

How can football players and clubs help combat homophobia in sport?

I think it’s a case of educating people and getting footballers to support causes like The Justin Campaign to help push racism and homophobia out of football. It is a big deal and we should be further along after what happened to Justin Fashanu. We should be at a point where players don’t feel scared to come out. The more we can be seen to be backing campaigns like yours, the better. We’re in such a privileged position to get the message out there that homophobia and racism will not be tolerated. I know there will still be people out there asking why I’m backing this campaign, that doesn’t bother me what they think, all I know is that it’s something I believe in and I think others should too.


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