Young footballers on the verge of becoming professional are now much more likely to be supportive of gay team mates compared to a decade ago, according to new research.
The universities of Kent and Winchester have conducted interviews with 22 Premier League academy footballers aged 16-18.
All of those surveyed identified as heterosexual.
Dr Steven Roberts, of the University of Kent’s School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research, said: “The interview results were broadly consistent with other recent research on young British men of their age in that these men showed no overt animosity towards gay men.
“In fact, they were more than tolerant and showed an inclusive attitude toward the hypothetical situation of having a gay team mate, best friend or room mate reveal their sexuality. The results are clear: among the 22 future footballers we interviewed, all were unbothered by the issue of gays in sport.”
Dr Roberts added: “This indicated a marked shift in perception from the last study. Although there was some evidence then that attitudes were changing, there has been a generational shift over the last decade. Lads now are saying ‘we would openly support and accept one of our colleagues coming out’.”
The last similar research into the attitudes of young sportsmen was carried out in 2002 by Professor Eric Anderson, of the University of Winchester, one of the three co-authors of the new research. His study found that gay male athletes were tolerated by team mates, “as long as they played the sport well”. However, there were no findings of active support.
Earlier this month, the Professional Footballers’ Association announced every single footballer in the Premier League and Football League will be requested to attend a session this season to receive guidance on homophobic and racist language and where banter oversteps the mark.
He accused the Football Association of allowing “dinosaurs” to dominate its management.