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Neil Francis apologises 'unreservedly' for 'extremely clumsy' comments

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Pundit Neil Francis has apologised "unreservedly and profusely" for his "extremely clumsy" comments on radio yesterday.

The former Ireland international found himself at the centre of a social media storm after comments made on Newstalk’s Off The Ball show yesterday after giving his opinion on homophobia in sport.

Speaking on Matt Cooper’s ‘The Last Word’ programme this evening along with international referee Nigel Owens, Francis was remorseful for his viewpoints at the weekend.

"When I got home I had a listen to the interview again and it didn't sound like me at all and a lot of people who listened to it said it's not your form," he told Cooper, who had said Francis was "downright stupid" for his comments yesterday.

"I realised I was in a field of landmines and I stood in one or two."

"Some of the points I tried to make were very clumsily made and my language and the analogies I tried to make were quite poor and poorly expressed, and it's unusual for me not to be able to articulate myself. In this instance I was unable to do so."

"Listening to what I said last night, on reflection, I probably said the wrong things and some of the things I said were extremely clumsy."

"In this instance, on reflection, I would like to withdraw those comments and apologise profusely and unreservedly for any issues that I might have served to anyone who heard them."

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Neil Francis pictured on the pitch in 1991 (Photo: Sportsfile)

Neil Francis pictured on the pitch in 1991 (Photo: Sportsfile)

Neil Francis pictured on the pitch in 1991 (Photo: Sportsfile)

Neil Francis pictured on the pitch in 1991 (Photo: Sportsfile)

Referee Nigel Owens was also on the show and said that while he didn't know Francis personally, he was willing to accept the apology as long as it is genuine.

"It's good that he has been able to go back and reflect. We all make mistakes in our lives and apologies are fine as long as they are genuine and from the heart," the Welsh referee said.

"I hope Neil's apologies are from the heart and not something he is saying now that he is being pressurised in after the outpouring from all walks of life," Owens said.

"If they are genuine I accept them."

Owens said that he had found the interview upsetting but hoped that lessons would be learned.

"It is a message learnt for people here, make sure that you think thoroughly about what you are saying and get your facts right."

The former Irish international admitted it was a "poor" interview while adding that many people commented on what he said without listening to the interview, saying it was "disgraceful" the way some of the comments were reported.

The rugby pundit reiterated his remorse at the incident

Francis cited two previous examples of work he has carried out in relation to homophobia in sport, including his part in a documentary called 'Queering The Pitch' which was about about a club called Emerald Warriors, an exclusively gay club that was set-up in Dublin and also a interview with a player who had revealed he was homosexual which Francis claimed was "probably the best pieces I had written".

"When it actually appeared in The Sunday Tribune it was unfortunately cut to pieces," Francis lamented.

Yesterday Francis said he would not be watching the Winter Olympics because of the hysteria surrounding gay rights activists and suggested that the majority of homosexual people he had encountered were not interested in sport.

"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?”

Francis also added that a rugby dressing room is "unquestionably a homophobic place" and to admit one’s homosexuality could have a seriously detrimental effect on a career.

“Whatever about the dressing room, I mean there are 80,000 people and you are a corner-back or a line backer, it doesn’t matter, you are going to get abuse from the crowd from some idiots and that can be a distraction.”

Declan Whooley

Online Editors