28 January 2014
The issue of professional gay footballers was thrust back into the spotlight again recently with the disclosures from former Premier League player Thomas Hitzlsperger and current semi-pro Liam Davis that they are gay.
by Rob McPherson
Following on from ex Leeds United player Robbie Rodgers announcing his homosexuality and the success of Stonewall and Paddy Power’s ‘Rainbow laces’ campaign, the issue has never before gained so many column inches.
There have been a number of players, pundits and members of the public who have questioned whether a football player coming out, whether current or former, is actually newsworthy.
At Village Manchester, we believe that the current lack of any professional players being ‘out’, and indeed the possible reasons for them not coming out, mean that the issue should be being talked about as much as possible.
The overwhelmingly positive response to Thomas’ revelation is a great step forward and shows that attitudes are already shifting and we are encouraged that an atmosphere where a professional footballer will not be afraid to reveal their homosexuality is being garnered.
Along with the Gay Football Supporters Network and other gay clubs around the country, Village Manchester is working at a grassroots level to show that it doesn’t matter whether someone is gay or not – what matters is how they conduct themselves on the pitch.
As an inclusive club, Village Manchester boasts a number of straight players and we have played in regular leagues for almost 20 years. Throughout that time we have encountered very few instances of homophobia and the fact that we are regarded as just another team is something the club is proud of and shows that football is a game to be enjoyed by everyone – no matter what the race, sex, age or sexual orientation of the players.
Thomas, Robbie and Liam have shown great bravery in disclosing their sexuality and their revelations will empower many gay people around the country to either attend more matches or to join a team.
The more players that do come out, the more empowered people will feel - but it is important that it is done in the way the player wants. Nobody should be forced to come out and every professional player has the right to a private life. What we hope for, and what other gay institutions are aiming for, is that players won’t feel the need to hide who they are.
To show our support against homophobia in football, Village Manchester are sending a number of representatives to a Just a Ball Game event on 5 February. The event - a Q&A for LGBT History Month – will discuss homophobia in football and is being presented by BBC presenter Mark Chapman with special guests including ex-PFA chairman Clarke Carlisle and the aforementioned Liam Davis, as part of a piece that will be broadcast on BBC Radio Five Live.
With the Winter Olympics happening in Sochi in Russia this month and with the furore around the country’s stance on gay people and ‘propaganda’ – hopefully the gaze of the world’s media will again show that gay athletes – whether footballers, speed skaters or snowboarders – deserve their place in the sporting arena.
Footballers come out as gay