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FA under fire for last minute cancellation of homophobia video

The Football Association's commitment to tackling homophobia in the game was today called into question by gay rights groups after the launch of a much-heralded film designed to confront the issue was cancelled at the last minute. Amid some unease about the content of the hard-hitting video, produced by advertising agency Ogilvy to a brief agreed by the FA itself, football diversity campaign group Kick It Out and gay rights group OutRage, Thursday's planned launch of the film at Wembley Stadium has been cancelled, reports The Guardian.

The campaign had been in development for almost two years and had been billed as an important moment in an embryonic drive to tackle homophobia among players, fans and administrators.

"This last-minute cancellation is a big disappointment. It has thrown the Football Association's commitment to tackling homophobia into disarray," said OutRage campaigner Peter Tatchell.

"Contrary to what the FA is now saying, the video and strategy was agreed nearly two years ago. This postponement comes on top of the FA's dissolution of the broad-based Tackling Homophobia Working Group," he added.

He said the group had helped implement many constructive initiatives to rid football of homophobia, but members had now been replaced by a "hand-picked, much smaller and less representative" group. "It no longer includes all interested stakeholders," he said.

Last year, Ben Summerskill, chief executive of Stonewall, said the results of a survey showing that seven in 10 fans had witnessed homophobic abuse proved that football was "institutionally homophobic".

Tatchell said the FA deserved credit for some of the work it has done in educating coaches and referees, and ensuring that homophobic abuse within grounds results in ejection or arrest, but its hesitation over the video meant that it had misjudged a significant moment.

An FA spokesman said it was "committed to its stated aims of tackling homophobia in football".

He added: "After consultation with our Tackling Homophobia Working Group we have now produced a viral film which will form part of our overall strategy. We will now enter a final stage of consultation and will shortly be in a position to announce the next stage of the strategy, including the launch of the educational film."

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