Referee Nigel Owens criticises Neil Francis for comments on homosexuality in sport
Former Irish international Neil Francis has been criticised for controversial comments on homosexuality in sport by international referee Nigel Owens.
Francis guessed that the number of homosexuals in professional sport was closer to one per cent of the playing population as from his own personal experiences, he found their interests lay elsewhere.
"Professional sport by its very nature does not promote...there are a wide range of people who are homosexual and the environment that they are in isn't something that they are really interested in," he said.
“As a sportsman you don’t like ballet,” he added.
“If you did a survey of the hairdressing industry, how many heterosexuals work in that?”
Responding to the comments, Nigel Owens, who almost killed himself while coming to terms with being gay said: "When you listen to his interview, I hope he realises what he's saying. Everyone's entitled to their own opinion.
"When you hear somebody saying 'gay people have no interest in sport'. I don't know the company Neil Francis is keeping and who he has sat down and spoken but he hasn't spoken to a lot of people I know playing sport and rugby in particular.
""When you come up with a comment of 'I have no interest in ballet', that just sums it all up as somebody who is living in the dark ages and is stereotyping people quite wrongly.
"People like Neil Francis, who people still look up to, an international player, needs to think long and hard before he comes out with statements like this or what harm he is doing to young people who are really struggling with who they are.
"I came within minutes of taking my own life and there are still people out there who are in that situation and remarks like this don't help people. Get out there and do something positive and let's get young people getting on with their lives and being who they are."
He had earlier wrote on facebook: "Disappointing to read Neil Francis comments. Sport is for all. No matter who you are or where you’re from.
"Many gay people play sport at all levels. Just most have chosen not to come out and that is their choice. A choice, which should be respected.
"Be yourself and do what’s right for you. Lets make sport a safe and welcoming environment for all. I have honestly been made welcome everywhere I go when officiating rugby, and that my friends I am truly grateful and humbled for.
"Rugby Union has shown the way. Let us hope ALL other sports can follow slowly but surely some are."