It is a sport where men are men, players who go down injured are derided as 'poofs', stars may feel forced to deny that they are homosexual and there is no 'out' gay player in any British dressing room.Based on the context set out in the article, it looks like Manchester City's efforts at inclusion will run into plenty of criticism within the world of soccer. And it remains to be seen whether a more positive organizational structure will do anything to overcome the culture which prevents players themselves from coming out.
Yet Manchester City have decided to challenge football's taboo by becoming a champion of equal rights, hiring gays to work at its stadium and training ground and attracting new supporters from the city's thriving gay and lesbian community. The Premiership side have become the first club to join a distinguished list of employers which are officially recognised as 'gay-friendly' by Stonewall, the gay rights campaign group, joining the likes of the BBC, Nike, the Royal Navy and Sainsbury's.
City have just paid a four-figure sum to join Stonewall's Diversity Champions scheme. Firms on the list follow policies designed to recruit and retain gay members of staff, such as banning offensive language in the workplace and to persuade some of Britain's estimated 3.6 million gays and lesbians to spend their 'pink pounds' with them...
Manchester City already give Manchester's main gay amateur team free coaching and match tickets, advertise in local gay publications, back the city's Lesbian and Gay Foundation and support Aids fundraising initiatives. City have trained all their 175 full-time and 500 part-time staff to be sensitive towards gays as part of a diversity training programme on race, religion, disability and sexual orientation, and banned the use of 'inappropriate' language that their staff, 10 of whom are gay, might find offensive.
Alistair Mackintosh, the club's chief executive, said: 'We want to send a welcoming message to gay, lesbian and bisexual supporters, be inclusive and be a progressive employer.'...
Mackintosh stressed that the motivation for joining Diversity Champions was not to increase attendances but to learn the best ways of hiring and keeping talented gay staff and avoiding situations which could lead to the club being sued for discrimination, as some big-name employers have been.
City take a strong stand against their fans acting in an homophobic manner inside their ground. At their derby against Manchester United last season several supporters who were directing homophobic chanting at visiting players were thrown out after complaints.
But at the very least Manchester City deserves credit for challenging the conservatism which seems to reign at the moment in their sport. And the model is one that other sports franchises, and indeed employers everywhere, should be seeking to emulate.