Wales

Homophobic attack 'drove' Gareth 'Alfie' Thomas to seek law change

Gareth Thomas, the former Wales captain Image copyright Twitter
Image caption Gareth Thomas was assaulted in Cardiff last year

Ex-Wales rugby star Gareth "Alfie" Thomas was driven to seek a change in the law after he was the victim of a hate crime.

The 44-year-old, who came out as gay in 2009, was assaulted because of his sexuality in Cardiff last November.

A 16-year-old boy was dealt with by way of restorative justice.

Thomas has been seeking to include homophobic abuse in the 1991 Football Offences Act so it is dealt with in the same way as racism on the pitch.

While he had already been lobbying for the change for years, he said the assault made him realise quite how harmful hate speech can be and it further spurred him on.

"This was a group of young lads who physically I outweighed I had more strength than, but the realisation of how harmful words can be, how harmful hatred can be, how harmful hate speech can be, it drove me on to want to create better environments, to create better laws," he said.

"I've even been to parliament to change the Football Offences Act... I realised if you have the law on your side, you have the power to be able to deal with it and be in control."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Thomas scored 41 tries and made three Test appearances for the British and Irish Lions

Thomas said he chose restorative justice for his attacker because he "never wanted to be a victim".

"The law is on my side, but it's not on my side if I was in a football stadium," he told BBC Radio Wales Breakfast with Claire Summers.

Thomas said racism is worded in the Football Offences Act, and people face bans from football stadiums and from travelling abroad to games, but no other form of abuse is specifically included.

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Media captionGareth Thomas tackled homophobia in football in a 2017 documentary

"There are forces and people that want to make change... I wanted to leave behind something permanent that will create an environment for footballers, players, fans, boardroom where people will feel safe to be themselves, to be judged on their abilities and not on their sexuality," he added.

He said he wants to create an environment where an openly gay footballer can walk into a club and know he is not going to receive abuse for his sexuality.

"There's a minority in every club that make that environment not a good place. and I want to create an environment where they are gone, they can no longer exist," he said.

Thomas has been campaigning for a number of seeking to include homophobic abuse in the 1991 Football Offences Act and the amendment is currently going through parliament to be considered.

  • Gareth Thomas v Homophobia: The legacy is on BBC One Wales at 22.35 BST on Thursday, 15 August

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