During an interview with The Times, UK Football Association chairman Greg Clarke said he talked to 15 gay players and he suggested a collective ‘coming out’ instead of one at a time. Clarke says he hoped to orchestrate it so that several players came out together to share the spotlight, and suggested that Gareth Southgate’s successor as England manager could be drawn from the black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) community.
Clarke told The Times, “If a number of top-level pros want to come out, why don’t we synchronize it?” though Clarke said he doesn’t want to force anyone to come out. “That’s not right. People are cautious. Once you’re out of the closet, you’re out.”
A survey run by BBC Radio in October found that 8% of fans would stop watching their team if they signed a gay player. But 82% of fans said they would be comfortable with an openly gay player at their club.
According to Ed Connell, from the Gay Football Supporters’ Network, some elements of the game still need to be addressed to create a “safe environment” in which players can come out as gay. “The sentiment is good; coming out as a group would be a lot easier. Until we eliminate gay banter among players or gay chanting on terraces, it will not happen.”
In 1990, Justin Fashanu became the first player in England to come out as gay. He took his own life in 1998, aged 37. No male professional player has since come out while playing in England.