Football Association chairman Greg Clarke has expressed his concern about the lack of LGBT+ inclusivity in men’s football.
There are currently no openly gay football players in the Premier League. Justin Fashanu was the first professional football player to come out, which he did in 1990. He was subsequently shunned by various clubs, and no high-profile players have come out since.
Ex Premier League player Thomas Hitzlsperger came out as gay in 2014, one year after his retirement.
Speaking at Stonewall’s Rainbow Laces summit at Old Trafford, Clarke revealed that he has made attempts to make things more comfortable for LGBT+ players to come out. “I have had conversations with the PFA and the LMA on this issue,” he told The Mirror, “and we have talked about how we can encourage professional footballers who want to come out to come out in a safe space.”
He continued: “We are trying to engage with them, to talk to them. But to be perfectly frank, they are reticent to engage with me.”
Clarke praised the inclusion of LGBT+ players in women’s football. “I was at the Women’s FA Cup final and it was great, inclusive – there were gay people, straight people, transgender people, and it was a wonderful occasion,” he said.
“You can talk to people from the women’s game, which is inclusive, which is safe. But something about the men’s game is not right because if it was right, we could have those conversations.”
Clake added that he thinks LGBT+ acceptance will have come to men’s football when the FA Cup final has “the same feel” as the women’s game.
However, when asked how long he thinks it will take for men’s football to reach that level of acceptance, he replied: “Probably a couple of decades.”
Bournemouth FC’s Eddie Howe recently became the first Premier League manager to go on the record to say he’d be happy to have a gay footballer on his team.
In an exclusive interview in the Spring issue of Winq – available digitally and in shops now – the former Portsmouth and Bournemouth player tells Mark McAdam that he would sign an openly gay player “without hesitation”, and that the sport is changing when it comes to equality and acceptance.
“I would sign a gay player without hesitation if they were the right player for the club, absolutely no doubt about it,” Eddie says. “The football and the footballer’s character are the things that define a career, not sexuality.”
“As a manager you like to try and prepare yourself for every scenario that you may face. You think about every eventuality and being prepared for anything. So I would like to think I have the right mentality for when that day comes, and it will, when one of my players walks into my office to have that conversation.”