A poll of gay men and lesbians has found that tennis is seen as the most gay-friendly sport.

Sixty-five per cent of the 700 people surveyed by Stonewall said they thought tennis was the most welcoming sport to gay fans and players.

Rugby scored 29 per cent, and was likely to have been boosted by Welsh star Gareth Thomas coming out in December.

However, just six per cent said that football, which is the UK’s most popular sport, was gay-friendly.

The sport has only ever had one gay player, the late Justin Fashanu, and homophobia in the game has been in the news regularly in the last year.

James Munro from the Lawn Tennis Association said: “As the national governing body for tennis in Britain, the Lawn Tennis Association is delighted that tennis has been recognised as a welcoming sport for all, regardless of age, ability, background or sexual orientation.”

Speaking at this year’s Stonewall Equality Dinner, tennis legend Martina Navratilova, who is gay, said: “When I first came out in 1981, it was lonely out there.

“The phrase I heard was ‘career suicide’. I’m told I lost millions in sponsorship, but I gained something of greater value – the opportunity to live my life with integrity.”

Stonewall chief executive Ben Summerskill said: “There’s not a single openly gay professional player in British football. Perhaps if football had a wider pool of talent to choose from, our World Cup performance wouldn’t be quite so pitiful.”