Football Association chairman Greg Clarke has given an interview to The Times where he sensationally calls for gay footballers to come out in a mass event.
In a wide-ranging interview on Monday which tackled both homophobia and racism in football, Clarke said: “I put the message out there that if a number of top-level pros want to come out, why don’t we synchronise it, so one person doesn’t have to come out on their own?
“The Premier League, the Football League and the FA could do it at the start of the season.”
This is a reversal of his position earlier in the year, when he said he wouldn’t recommend any player to come out due to potential abuse from other players and fans. It was a disheartening stance for gay football fans, who had hoped a new chairman might usher in more modern thinking on sexuality.
Clarke revealed he had spoken to 15 gay sports people so far, adding: “It is very difficult to get to a representative set of gay top-level footballers because some of them are happy with their sexuality and just don’t want anyone to know,” indicating that the problem lies more with society than players’ desire to keep their sex lives secret.
The template for coming out in football is still darkened by the events surrounding Justin Fashanu, who took his own life after years of backlash when outed by a newspaper. His brother labelled him an outcast in the media, and since then, a dearth of out players has helped keep football’s image overly heteronormative.
A mass coming- out would hopefully signal a new era for football. The last player to come out was Robbie Rogers- who waited until he’d retired from the game, before coming back to the game after a positive response.
Watch a discussion on homophobia in football here: