Discovery+ and TNT Sports are to air a new Buzz 16 documentary Rylan: Homophobia, Football and Me that examines the presenter’s relationship with football and his own experiences of homophobia within the sport
In the 1×45 doc, Rylan takes a candid look at his own personal experiences growing up as a football fan and member of the LGBTQ+ community.
Raised as a West Ham fan, and a member of the Junior Hammers supporters club growing up, Rylan quickly felt pushed out of the game as a result of homophobic attitudes. Homophobia, Football and Me is a powerful and candid exploration of football’s relationship with homosexuality, as Rylan investigates why it is not always a welcoming community for gay men, examining the effects of homophobia on those exposed to it.
In the documentary, released to coincide with LGBT History Month, Rylan interviews figures from the game – past and present. Former Aston Villa and Germany midfielder Thomas Hitzlsperger opens up after coming out as a gay man following his retirement while ex-England star-turned-football pundit Rio Ferdinand discusses his use of a homophobic slur live on BBC Radio 1 and how his attitudes have changed. Rylan also speaks to Arsenal women’s player Jen Beattie, who explains the differing attitudes to homosexuality within the female game.
Rylan: Homophobia, Football and Me, produced by Buzz 16, will be available to stream on discovery+ from Tuesday 13 February and will premiere on TNT Sports 1 at 10:30pm following live coverage of the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 first leg fixture between FC Copenhagen and Manchester City on the same channel.
On the documentary, Rylan said: “Growing up loving football and being a West Ham fan, I always assumed that I’d be able to go to games whenever I wanted as I got older. But as time moved on and as a gay man, I sometimes felt uncomfortable around spectators at games. I’m not one to be easily offended but some of the language and insults that’re used on a daily basis by football crowds made going to games almost impossible, especially as I got more and more known and started having them directed at me.
“This documentary aims to highlight that football is for everyone regardless of what you get up to in your private life. I talk to fans, players, past and present, about how the beautiful game could be even prettier for everyone to enjoy, and how as fans we can change to help make players feel comfortable sharing their sexuality if they wish to do so.”
Former England international and six-time Premier League title winner Rio Ferdinand, now a pundit for TNT Sports, said: “Discrimination in any form has no place in society and it has been confronting to hear what Rylan has had to endure as a gay man who simply wanted to go and support his local football team.
“As a young man, I was guilty of flippantly using words and phrases that I recognise were completely wrong and it’s something I open up to Rylan about in the documentary. Contributing to the documentary and speaking to Rylan at length was an education in itself to gain an insight into his world.”
Scott Young, Group SVP, Content, Production and Business Operations, WBD Sports Europe, added: “As a multi-sport broadcaster, we are committed to telling the whole story around every sport we show both on and off the pitch. We also have a duty to reflect the communities we serve to enable a deeper connection between the fans and the sports they love, which includes tackling societal issues head on.
“Outdated and bigoted views towards homosexuality within sport and society is an issue we take incredibly seriously and we are relentless in our pursuit of new voices to shine a light on the topic. We are privileged to have worked closely with Rylan on this project and to benefit from his experiences and his emotive journey through football’s problem with confronting homosexuality. Within our new documentary, Rylan offers his powerful insights and candour which has enabled us to authentically convey the problems and solutions present within football and we know fans will be informed and inspired by his unique perspectives.”
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