In Depth

Gay footballers: the time is right, says Premier League chief

It would be 'very strange' if there were no gay footballers, says Richard Scudamore, and fans would welcome them if they came out

After recent reports that two Premier League footballers were preparing to come out as gay, league chief executive Richard Scudamore has said he would expect the reaction from fans to be positive.

In an interview with the BBC's Newsnight, he added that it would be "very strange" if there were no gay footballers in the top flight, and said that "the environment would be entirely suitable for them to come out".

"It would be welcomed and I think there would be a tolerance to it", he said.

The issue of homosexuality in football has become something of a taboo. "No active top-flight player has come out since Justin Fashanu in 1990," reports The Times. "Thomas Hitzlsperger, the former Aston Villa player, revealed that he was gay after retiring from football in 2014, while Robbie Rogers, once of Leeds United, chose to restart his career with Los Angeles Galaxy after coming out."

Last year Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said it was unlikely that any player would come out as gay because of the likely reaction of the media. Asked about Scudamore's comments this week, he said that football was "more tolerant" and said: "I wouldn't like to say it's perfect, but certainly it's better than ten years ago."

Other sports have addressed the issue in recent years. And "gay stars in other sports have been blazing a trail", says the Daily Mirror. It namechecks diver Tom Daley, England women's football captain Casey Stoney, former Wales rugby captain Gareth Thomas and rugby league star Keegan Hirst.

The same paper reported last month that two Premier League players, one an England international, were preparing to come out before the start of next season and had the support of their clubs.

"They would become the first ever players to publicly announce they are gay while in the top flight of English football," said the paper. "Another well-known player came out to friends in 2011. But a homophobic word was then daubed in paint across his car... [and] he is now reluctant to come out publicly in case he is the target for more abuse."

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