Former star Liverpool striker Robbie Fowler who has in the past been accused of homophobic taunting, has said he thinks it “wouldn’t be a problem” for a footballer to be openly gay now.
His remarks follow the coming out of former Aston Villa midfielder Thomas Hitzlsperger on Wednesday. He said: “I’ve never been ashamed of the way I am”.
Speaking on BBC’s Football Focus, he said: “Years ago it probably would have been more of a problem on the terraces.
“I don’t think it would have been in the dressing room, certainly it wouldn’t be a problem in a dressing room now. I don’t think it would be a problem on the terraces now.”
Fowler infamously taunted Graeme Le Saux in 1999 who is not gay, but received homophobic abuse.
During a Chelsea-Liverpool match at Stamford Bridge, Fowler bent over on the pitch as Le Saux was waiting to take a penalty and invited him to have anal sex with him.
Going on to discuss the La Saux incident, he said: “Certainly if things happen on a pitch the thing is you learn from it and I know I certainly have.
“And another important thing is other people can learn off something I have done as well. I’m thankful people can learn off me. It was wrong and we’re sorry.”
Minister for Sport and Equalities Helen Grant said to PinkNews.co.uk: “It’s great news that Thomas Hitzlsperger has had the courage to come out today. While we have made great progress in shifting attitudes towards the gay community, there are still many people who have hidden or who are still hiding their sexuality, through fear of homophobia. There is still more we can all do to help tackle homophobia in sport.”
High-profile athletes from other sports have openly discussed their sexuality in recent years, with Olympic diver Tom Daley revealing in December he was in a relationship with a man.
But Hitzlsperger was only the fourth footballer to do so publicly.
There are currently no known openly gay footballers in the English and Scottish professional leagues.