It has been revealed that 82% of sports fans surveyed by the BBC in England, Scotland and Wales would not have a problem if their club opted to sign a gay player
But in a slightly more worrying statistic, 8% of football fans have said that they would stop watching their team if a gay player was included.
In reaction to this, FA Chairman Greg Clarke told MP’s that he would be ‘cautious’ about encouraging a player to come out because he feared they might suffer “significant abuse from fans”.
Clarke later told BBC Radio 5 Live that if a player was to come out, he would “fully respect them and support them’ but ‘can’t promise, at the moment, to provide them with the required protection”.
Out of all of the sports fans that asked, 47% of them said that they had heard homophobic abuse at matches. More specifically, 50% of football fans admitted to hearing homophobic abuse at games.
Matt Wester, President of the University of Gloucestershire’s LGBT+ society, said that he believes one of the main reasons football fans might not watch their team if it has gay representation is because of the heritage of the sport. “These supporters may be opposed to homosexuality based on tradition as a whole”.
He added “They may have been fans of their team at a time when being homosexual was still illegal or wasn’t challenged. The fact that 50% of football fans have heard homophobic abuse at matches shows that it’s been the norm for years on end”.
22 year-old Sean McMahon is a Birmingham City season ticket holder, and is frustrated by the work done to tackle homophobic abuse.
“Criticising somebody for being homosexual is ridiculous. There are massive campaigns for respect in the game, standing up to racism in the game, why can’t there be something similar for this situation?”.
Neil Hemming, 31, is also a season ticket holder at his favourite club – Derby County.
He says that homosexuality is widely accepted in other professions, and should be the same in football.
“There’s gay people in every profession. You don’t get employed because you’re gay, you get employed because you’re good at your job, and that should apply to football as well”.
No professional male footballer has come out during their career since Justin Fashanu in 1990, who went on to take his life in 1998. Thomas Hitzlsperger, ex-Aston Villa and Germany player, famously came out in 2014 – once his Premier League playing career had finished.
Robbie Rogers, former Leeds United Winger, came out when announcing his retirement, saying that it was “impossible” to declare his sexuality, and maintain a playing career in the game.
The 8% who would stop watching their team if it had gay representation are quite clearly the minority, but it is a situation which definitely needs addressing.