October 22, 2020 marked the 30th anniversary of Justin Fashanu’s coming out. Fashanu was the first openly gay soccer player to come out while playing professionally. Fashanu was also the first black soccer player in England to hold a £1-million pound transfer fee.
On October 22 1990, UK tabloid newspaper The Sun ran the headline ‘“£1m Football Star: I AM GAY”. Fashanu was later interviewed for Gay Times in July 1991, where it was stated that “He admits that he wasn’t fully prepared for the backlash that followed.”
On the 30th anniversary of Fashanu’s public coming out the President of Pride Football Australia, James Cardall, has recognised the significance of Fashanu’s bravery of coming out so publicly in 1990.
Speaking with Star Observer, Cardall stated that “given the fact that he still is and was the only professional footballer to come out while playing at the highest level speaks volumes to where the game is at, at the moment.”
Cardall expressed that while there have been positive steps taken since Fashanu’s coming out in 1990, there is still hesitancy by national bodies like Football Federation Australia (FFA) to recognise the barriers faces by LGBTQI people in football. Cardall informed Star Observer that “I think he [Justin Fashanu] is still that shining light” for LGBTQI people in football.
Mark Robinson, President of the Sydney Rangers, an LGBTQI friendly and inclusive soccer club in Sydney, shares Cardall’s sentiments. Speaking with Star Observer, Robinson stated that “there is work to be done and support to be had” for LGBTQI inclusion in football in Australia and internationally.
Robinson expressed that whilst Fashanu is an important figure in terms of providing representation for LGBTQI people in soccer, “the silence speaks louder than words” and that “30 years of silence [since Fashanu’s coming out] is deafening on that front.”
Both Robinson and Cardall referenced a recent 11-point plan issued by the FFA that outlines plans being made for the future of soccer in Australia. This plan, according to Robinson and Cardall, initially had no mention of LGBTQI people. After speaking with the FFA, they were later able to amend this so LGBTQI people have been included.
Robinson told Star Observer that he hopes “there are actions behind those principles” espoused by the FFA in amending this plan.