Taboo Against Gay Soccer Players a Myth

Ongoing research conducted at the University of Staffordshire has found that the taboo surrounding gay players in English soccer is a myth.

Professor Ellis Cashmore, writing in the Journal of Sport & Social Issues, found overwhelming support for gay players from 3,500 English fans.

But fans cited clubs and agents as the main obstacles to players coming out. That would constitute “brand damage,” as one fan put it.

While soccer itself is ready to accept gay players, anyone coming out would face media intrusion of “titanic proportions,” warned Clarke Carlisle, chairman of the Professional Footballers’ Association.

The influential agent Max Clifford told the IoS two years ago:

It would take a very courageous {English] Premier League footballer to come out because fans are so vociferous in football in a way they aren’t in any other sport. There are also barriers to a player coming out from some clubs, firstly because the players are commercial assets and the clubs don’t want those assets damaged, and secondly because a player coming out would cause disruption.

Cashmore said:

Football’s gay players have been reluctant to come out. Their reasons for remaining silent lie inside the football industry rather than in the crowds.

Most fans are embarrassed by the popular conception of football as a homophobic environment. It is an impression, they believe, maintained by a code of silence orchestrated and enforced by agents and clubs.

Cashmore’s research also found that many fans viewed homophobic abuse – frequently cited as a major reason dissuading players from coming out – as ‘good-humored banter.’

English fans chanting homophobic abuse have found themselves gaining police attention. A Southampton supporter who chanted homophobic abuse recently received a three-year soccer ban order and was fined £100, plus £100 costs.

Almost no professional soccer players have come out, though an exception is the Swede Anton Hysén. Although Hysén plays in a minor league, his family is a footballing dynasty in Sweden; Hysén’s older brother, Tobias, is a Swedish international; their father, Glenn, was a tough defender for both Liverpool FC and Sweden as an international player and he remains a celebrity in Sweden.

“Everyone has been very positive. I was on the train last weekend and this girl said: ‘You’ve made the world a better place, thank you for being there for everyone,’ and I haven’t done anything,” Hysén says.

“But when you think about it, you kinda have. Obviously I haven’t been playing in the top league but I’m still going for it, and I’m still the only active player who has come out, so of course it’s huge.”

In August, Germany captain Philipp Lahm said that gay players should not come out because the repercussions could be too devastating and last month the President of the Italian Footballers’ Association Damiano Tommasi said he would not recommend players publicly come out, because soccer is “different to every other profession.”

Chris Basiurski, chairman of the English Gay Football Supporters’ Network, said:

We have heard anecdotal evidence that there are players out to their clubs and teammates, but not to the wider footballing community.

When Fifa last year awarded the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, where homosexuality is illegal, president Sepp Blatter sniggered that gay fans “should refrain from any sexual activities” if traveling there.

The British government has backed a campaign to ‘kick homophobia out of sport.’ Liverpool is the first Premier League club to sign up to the campaign.

Picture of gay football team Leftfooters by lewishamdreamer

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Helena Plum Bowyer
Helena B.3 years ago

This researcher has obviously never actually watched live football.

Norma V.
Norma Villarreal3 years ago

Move past the homophobia!

Dan(iel) M.
Dan(iel) M.3 years ago

Thanks for posting the article.

Jerry C.
Jerry C.3 years ago

good read

Ellen Mccabe
ellen m.3 years ago

Now go poll the NFL...
3,500 fans..give me a break.
How many wouldn't bother to even answer?
Homophobia is rampant, and wrong.
And try polling the fans at Uganda match. Those slanted poll results do nothing to further the cause, just the opposite...they invite complacency.

Marie W.
Marie W.3 years ago

And is this any different than any other gay taboo?

Lynn C.
Lynn C.3 years ago

Thanks for the article. Sigh. I would like to live long enough to hear "news'' and never hear a word about a persons sexual orientation, because it had become a non-issue. Wouldn't that be wonderful?

William Y.
William Y.3 years ago

Might I ask, what the hell is the difference if a soccer player is gay or straight? How the person plays the game is all that should matter, and that goes for all team sports.

ann m.
ann morgan3 years ago

I find it astounding that Ellis Cashmore does not think there is a problem of homophobia amongst fans. If you need proof, read "Were not homophobic" a survey of actual fan comments by Lindsey England. The fact there are no out premier league players should say it all.

Alicia N.
Alicia N.3 years ago