Out gay footballer makes history as first to play at Wembley Stadium
This weekend will see the first out male gay footballer to ever play at Wembley Stadium.
Liam Davis, 26, will make history when he walks out at the home of England’s national side to represent Cleethorpes Town in the FA Vase final.
Davis, who came out when he was 18, has helped his hometown club to reach the biggest day in their 20-year history.
An out gay footballer has never played in the Premier League, let alone at Wembley, which is generally reserved for cup finals and internationals.
Thomas Hitzlsperger played at Wembley during an England v Germany friendly in 2007, but the former Aston Villa player did not come out as gay until after he had retired, in 2014.
However, Davis, whose club plays in the tenth tier of English football, said the journey to Sunday’s final on hallowed turf against South Shields had been surprisingly smooth.
“It has never really been something I’ve had to discuss with team-mates,” he told i News.
“At the club you’re at, everybody will back you up.”
Davis has come out to teammates at every club he has been at, including Selby Town, Brigg Town and Gainsborough Trinity.
“Even when I was at Gainsborough, everybody knew but I didn’t know everybody knew,” he said.
“It got spoken about on a team night out, but that was about it. There haven’t been any negatives from my point of view.”
He said this was perhaps due to him playing at a relatively low level for his whole career.
“It gets bigger and bigger the higher up you go.
“I can’t speak for someone playing in front of more fans, but from my experience I’ve had no problems and don’t think I ever will do,” he added.
His experience mirrors that of Anton Hysen, a defender who plays in the Swedish second division and who said he has faced little to no discrimination since coming out six years ago.
However, Robbie Rogers, who went to play in the US for LA Galaxy after coming out in 2013, was repeatedly branded a “queer” during a match in 2016.
And Football Association chairman Greg Clarke said last year that there would be “significant abuse” if a Premier League player came out.
He admitted that he “would be amazed if we haven’t got gay players in the Premier League, and I am personally ashamed that they don’t feel safe to come out.”
And he seemed to dissuade anyone from doing so, saying: “I don’t think we’ve cracked the problem yet”.
Davis said he understood this point of view, but predicted that when someone does come out, “there’ll be a lot more that follow.
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“I’m sure of that,” he said.
“They’ll get the backing, but it does depend on who’s telling them what.
“Top-level footballers are puppets, they get told what they are allowed to do, what they aren’t allowed to do, what’s good for their careers and what isn’t good for their careers,” he explained.
“If what they’re getting told means they won’t come out then so be it, but there should be players coming out. Although they’re obviously not doing so for a reason.
“If it does happen, then great, but I still keep thinking year after year that this will be the time and it’s still not.
“I worked it out in a previous interview – the likelihood of there being no gay footballers – and statistics-wise, it just doesn’t add up.”