THE majority of sports fans in England, Wales, and Scotland would not have an issue with their club signing a gay player, according to a survey.
Of those polled, 82% said that they would be fine with a homosexual player joining their club. On the other end of the spectrum, eight per cent said that it would cause them to stop watching their team altogether, according to a survey carried out by BBC Radio 5 live.
Football Association chairman Greg Clarke said he was “cautious” about encouraging players to come out, for fear that it might lead to “vile abuse” from intolerant fans.
He said that before players begin to come out en-masse, the creation of a “safe space” was necessary and that he hoped that this is something that would be achieved over the next year or two.
Although Clarke seemed to be concerned with the wellbeing of the athletes, his comments came in for criticism from some who felt that he was kowtowing to the demands of supporters with outdated attitudes.
Former Premier League striker Chris Sutton told 5 live that Clarke was “taking the easy way out” and letting a small minority of “cavemen” call the shots.
Sutton compared a football club to any other workplace, and argued that it should be treated accordingly, with zero tolerance for discrimination of any kind. He also added that players at his former clubs “wouldn’t bat an eyelid” at a gay player on the squad.
Openly gay athletes are becoming more common in professional sports leagues. Twenty-eight-year-old Keegan Hirst is an openly gay rugby player who plays for the Wakefield Trinity Wildcats. Justin Fashanu became the first player in England to come out as gay back in 1990, but he committed suicide in 1998 at the age of 37. No male player has since come out while playing professionally in England.