Gay footballers coming out would help boost the cause of equality, the British Commons Speaker John Bercow has said.
Mr Bercow said it would “do wonders for the cause” if players felt able to be open about their sexuality, adding that it was “wholly implausible” that there were not gay stars in the top tier of the sport.
At an event hosted by the Speaker, former Welsh rugby captain Gareth Thomas – who came out in 2009 and has campaigned to tackle homophobia in sport – said he wanted to create a culture where players or coaching staff “wouldn’t face criticism or abuse for being who they are”.
Thomas, who also captained the British Lions, was in Westminster to back a change in the law which would make homophobic abuse at football grounds illegal in the same way that racism is.
Excellent to be with @gareththomas14 in the House of Commons today, along with campaigners for LGBT rights and the football authorities to celebrate the presentation of a Bill to amend the Football Offences Act to include homophobic abuse pic.twitter.com/LWcvuzpz6H— Damian Collins (@DamianCollins) June 25, 2018
Mr Bercow said: “I do find it really odd in football that people just don’t come out as gay.
“On the law of averages I just find it literally inconceivable, wholly implausible, that in Premier League clubs and across the divisions there aren’t gay footballers. I just find this really odd.
“I have to say I do think it would do wonders for the cause of LGBT equality if people felt able, felt they had the space and the freedom and the protection and the support … to come out and say, ‘This is who I am’.”
Paul Elliott, chairman of the FA’s inclusion advisory board, wrote to Mr Collins to offer his support.
“The FA has long called for the criminalisation of homophobic chanting at football matches, and we are therefore delighted that you agree that this would be a valuable action for government to take,” he said.
Stonewall, the LGBT charity, welcomed the move.
Kirsty Clarke, director of sport at Stonewall, said: “Homophobic, biphobic and transphobic chanting are still sadly a feature of some football terraces.
“We’re keen to see legislation put in place that outlaws discrimination on the basis of all protected characteristics.
“We’re also working closely with the Premier League and other partners on measures to tackle hate crime within football such as education and training.”
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- Press Association