Gay footballers in the Premier League are held back by feeling unable to come out, top athletes told politicians today.
Former NBA star John Amaechi and British race walker Tom Bosworth told MPS at a hearing on homophobia in sport that players would play better if they felt able to come out.
Currently there are no out gay or bisexual players in the Premiere League.
Gay Premier League footballers would perform better if they were to come out, a parliamentary hearing on homophobia in sport has been told.
British race walker Tom Bosworth and former NBA star John Amaechi told MPs that players would be able to focus on their sport instead of “hiding”.
No current Premier League players are openly gay.
Bosworth, who got engaged to his partner at the Rio 2016 Olympics said a gay footballer “cannot be enjoying life as much as he could be”.
Amaechi added that he had spoken to gay footballers who were reluctant to come out.
“If someone is using 1% of their energy to stop themselves being who they are, that is the difference between being good and being great,” he said.
The athletes appeared in front of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee.
The Committee heard that 82 percent of fans in England, Scotland and Wales would have no issue with their team signing a gay player.
Sadly, 8 percent of fans said they would stop watching their team if it signed an out gay player.
Amaechi warned that football as an industry needs to do more to tackle the “toxic atmosphere of homophobia” in the sport.
“Football has the money and resources to do what it wants but it purposefully does nothing,” he added.
“I have spoken to Premier League football players who do not think their club would be supportive.”
Bosworth added that he had himself been “fortunate” that British Athletics was supportive, but that not all sports are the same.
“Football is the one that stands out. If it changes, it will be the game-changer, he added.
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John Amaechi came out as gay three years after retiring as a professional NBA player in 2007.
Bosworth, from Kent, had earlier finished sixth in the 20km event.
The 25-year-old came out as gay last year.
He discussed the reaction he had received from fellow athletes – including Olympic medallist Mo Farah.
“Coming out is no surprise to my friends, family and even team-mates – even Mo Farah, who didn’t bat an eyelid when I told him I was gay,” Bosworth told Victoria Derbyshire.
“I’ve been comfortable with my sexuality and in a really happy relationship for the past four and a half years,” he added.
“But in the build-up to the Rio Olympics next year, I don’t want this news to become a distraction or affect those closest to me.”
Bosworth and his boyfriend are the second gay couple to engaged at this year’s games, after a rugby sevens player was proposed to by her girlfriend.
Bosworth was handed a special award at the PinkNews Awards 2016. He accepted it on behalf of all out LGBT+ Olympians and Paralympians for improving LGBT+ visibility at Rio 2016.