Premier League - Fans 'would support gay players'

Eurosport - Sun, 08 Aug 11:30:00 2010

The majority of football fans would support gay players if they decided to declare their sexuality, new research has found.

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In a survey of 3,000 people published by the University of Staffordshire, eight out of 10 supporters said gay players would have a positive effect on the sport, comparable to how the influx of black players helped the games tackle racism in the 1980s and 1990s.

"One fan told us: 'I'd rather have a gay player who can play than a straight one who can't.' And this is a typical view, not just from supporters but from everyone associated with football," said Ellis Cashmore, professor of culture, media and sport at the University, in the Observer newspaper.

Public relations guru Max Clifford has apparently advised a trio of players to avoid coming out as gay because the sport is "steeped in homophobia".

That supports other findings in the report which claims that professional players, coaches and managers feel players would face hostility from fellow professionals. Four out of five people working in the sport felt they would suffer similar abuse from supporters, while a quarter said they knew someone who was gay in the sport.

Justin Fashanu (pictured) was the first black player to move for £1million in British football when he left Norwich City for Nottingham Forest in 1981.

He remains the only player to openly come out as gay and was known in Scottish football as the "Queen of the Diamonds" by fans during a short spell with Airdrieonians, club nickname The Diamonds, which suggested homophobic attitudes were still prevalent in UK football in the early 1990s.

Fashanu tragically died when he committed suicide in 1998, but no player has come out as being gay in the ensuing 12 years, despite a number of men and women in other sports coming out.

It is noticeable that many of the figures who have come out as gay are confined to 'individual' sports with the NBA basketball player John Amechi, Welsh rugby union player Gareth Thomas and Ian Roberts from Australian rugby league perhaps the three most prominent gay players from a team sport.

Ten leading gay sports professionals

Martina Navratilova - tennis player

Billie-Jean King - tennis player

John Amaechi - basketball player

Justin Fashana - football player

Ian Roberts - rugby league player

Gareth Thomas - rugby union player

Karrie Webb - golfer

Greg Louganis - Olympic diver

Amelie Mauresmo - tennis player

Donal Og Cusack - hurling player

Eurosport

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