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Arsenal can lay down a marker

Arsenal
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By ESPN Staff

Gay campaigner rails against Big Phil

Gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell has launched an attack on Chelsea's decision to appoint Luiz Felipe Scolari as manager after the Brazilian's previously aired views on gay players. "The appointment of Phil Scolari to manage Chelsea should have been vetoed by FA and Chelsea bosses," said Tatchell. "He had previously said he would refuse to have a gay player in his team.

"The FA should have not allowed him to take up his post until he renounced discrimination and gave an undertaking to abide by the FA's equality policies.

"If Scolari had said that black players were banned from his team, there would have been uproar. He would have been immediately ruled out of the running for the Chelsea managership. Why the double standards?

"Sport is one the last great bastions of homophobia, and football (together with boxing) is the least gay-friendly of all sports. We need much tougher official action to root out bigotry."

The FA has agreed to fund a video featuring high-profile Premier League stars speaking out against homophobia in the game. Tatchell, of the gay rights group OutRage!, suggested the DVD as a way of challenging the abuse hurled by fans at some players.

Tatchell's proposals have now been given the go-ahead by the FA and its equality and diversity organisation, Kick It Out, with the backing of the Professional Footballers' Association, which represents Britain's top players.

"After years of lobbying, the FA has agreed to approach top footballers to make a MTV-style video against homophobia," said Tatchell.

"The plan is to feature big-name stars speaking out against homophobia, in order to make anti-gay chants look as stupid, ignorant and uncool as racist ones.

"Our aim is to 'Give homophobia the boot' - to kick anti-gay prejudice off the pitch and out of the terraces. We believe this video will help challenge bigoted attitudes among fans.

Tatchell insists it is high time homophobia received the same treatment within the game as racism.

"Although it is only a minority of homophobic fans who are creating problems, they are quite sizeable and vociferous. Many gay spectators currently feel threatened and excluded. It is also a turn off for straight families to be surrounded by aggressive, homophobic hooligans," he said.

"The FA should impose big fines and match suspensions on players and managers who use anti-gay insults. Stewards should be required to identify fans who shout homophobic abuse and the FA should secure the agreement of the police to arrest and evict them - in the same way that they arrest and evict racist fans."

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