Friday 15 November 2019

Two Premier League stars to come out as gay simultaneously to avoid being 'the first'

Breaking boundaries: Gay footballers have been told not to fear coming out Photo: GETTY IMAGES
Breaking boundaries: Gay footballers have been told not to fear coming out Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Ben Rumsby

Gay footballers have been told the time is right for them to come out after it emerged two Premier League stars – including an England international – may be planning to do so.

According to The Daily Mirror, the unnamed players are ready to become the first in English football’s top flight to publicly declare themselves to be homosexual.

They are said to have come out to their families and clubs and to have received support from the Football Association.

Read more: Gay Premier League footballers need not fear intolerance of minority - it's time to come out

Lord Ouseley, the chairman of anti-discrimination watchdog Kick It Out, told The Daily Telegraph it would make sense for two gay stars to declare their sexuality simultaneously, so each of them can avoid the pressure of being “the first”.

He said: “I think it is a good time for someone to come out because organisations like my own and others, which work with gay and lesbian communities, would be supportive.

“We’ve seen this happen in some other sports and, although football is seen as quite different, I think it’s a time when we should be able to demonstrate that support.

“Unless you test the waters, you can’t be certain. But I think there enough people in the game now that would be willing to see their organisations demonstrate support for people being able to express, in an open way, their sexuality.”

Ouseley said he had heard second-hand accounts from players considering coming out, with the barriers to doing so being abuse from the stands, the potential impact on their families, and concerns about whether selection or performance would be affected.

He added: “Inevitably, there are people in football who will be abusive but I think we’re geared up to trying to find those people and kick them out of the game.”

The Mirror said another well-known player was put off coming out publicly recently when a homophobic word was daubed in paint across his car.

Otherwise, football has been moving towards its first openly-gay big-name player since Justin Fashanu committed suicide 17 years ago after being charged with sexual assault.

Last year saw former Everton, Aston Villa, West Ham United and Germany star Thomas Hitzlsperger become the first ex-Premier League player to come out.

That was after former Leeds United and United States player Robbie Rogers did so in 2013.

Male British stars in other sports to have come out in recent years include Wales rugby union star Gareth Thomas, Olympic diving hero Tom Daley and rugby league player Keegan Hirst.

A spokesperson for Stonewall, a gay rights charity, said: “We know from our research that attitudes in sport need to change before everyone feels free to be themselves, both on and off the pitch. One way of creating change is to have more visible lesbian, gay, bi and trans role models, and so it would send a powerful and important message if we were to see two Premier League players come out.

“While we’ve seen increasing numbers of high profile LGBT sports people in other sports, football has significantly lagged behind, and we hope that if these players do decide to be open about their sexual orientation, this will lead to more people – including players at all levels and fans - feeling comfortable to do the same.”

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