A football coach is challenging disciplinary action after he took his youth team off the field due to homophobic abuse by other players.
Darren Wildman has been involved in the sport for 30 years as a player and coach and heads the Skelmersdale United Football Club Academy in the UK.
During an under-18s youth academy game In June, a homophobic slur was directed at a player on Wildman’s team by an opposing player, Wildman told Pink Advocate.
In response to the harassment, Wildman took his players off the field.
“Once the game was stopped and we decided to leave the field of play, the abuse was mainly directed at myself and fellow coaches,” he said.
Wildman was initially charged by the County Football Association with misconduct for causing the game to be abandoned.
After two hearings, he was found guilty and received a touchline ban and a fine.
The players on the opposing team responsible for the abuse have also been penalised with fines and lengthy bans.
Wildman said that games have previously been marred by racial abuse between players, and this was the first instance he has witnessed of homophobia.
“We stand against anything discriminatory,” he said.
“It’s affected me due to the consequences [from the County Football Association], and I have received death threats and abuse via the usual online trolls.
“However, we have ensured the players are protected.”
Wildman has lodged an appeal against his ban and fine, with the support of a legal firm.
He said that he wants the National Football Association to admit that they handled the situation wrongly.
“You simply cannot preach a mantra of inclusion and tackling discrimination when those who stand up to it are then punished,” he said.
“Discrimination in all its forms will only ever go away if it’s challenged.
“Unless people stand up and simply say no, it will never go away.
“It’s absolutely no use large organisations simply putting out cool media packs and graphics stating they stand as one, whilst in the background not only refusing to support those who stand against discrimination but actively punishing them.
“It’s a sorry state of affairs.”
Efforts have increased in recent years to fight homophobia and encourage diversity and acceptance of LGBTIQ people in sport.
Australian research has found that up to 73% of players in sporting clubs have heard homophobic language from teammates, but this is significantly reduced in clubs with Pride programs.