Saturday 21 September 2019

MP says three gay footballers are in talks with FA about coming out, but governing body deny claims

It is understood that a number of footballers are preparing to come out as gay
It is understood that a number of footballers are preparing to come out as gay

Ben Rumsby

Claims three players within English football were considering coming out publicly as homosexual were thrown into doubt on Tuesday night after the Football Association denied being in talks with the individuals concerned.

An MP had suggested a trio of stars were considering revealing their sexuality while he quizzed the sports minister as part of a parliamentary inquiry into homophobia in sport.

John Nicolson, the former BBC journalist who is now a member of the Culture, Media and Sport select committee, told Tracey Crouch: “I understand that there are three players in talks with the FA about coming out and they haven’t done so yet.”

However, Nicolson’s assertion was disputed by the FA, with a spokesman adding in a statement: “We have been and are working hard so that if a player felt they wanted to have the conversation about coming out, we would be there and offer any and all the support we could.”

Scottish National Party MP Nicolson also grilled Crouch on what the Government could do to make it safe for them to do so after the chairman of the FA, Greg Clarke, told the committee in October that an openly gay player would suffer “significant abuse”.

Crouch last month rebuked Clarke over his comments, branding them “the complete opposite of the kind of support that a player needs”. And she did so again on Tuesday after agreeing with Nicolson that footballers were “scared” to come out.

“Clearly,” she said. “And if you’ve got comments right at the top saying now is not the right time, no wonder, in many respects, that they remain scared.”

Citing laws banning hate crimes, Crouch said: “The legislation is in place. It’s there to help combat homophobia in the whole of society. It’s as applicable to football and to any other sport as it is to anybody else. And, therefore, the idea that the time isn’t right now, they were strange comments. I thought they were disappointing comments under the circumstances.”

She added: “Actually, today, now, [there] has probably never been a better time to come out.”

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