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One of the only gay football bosses in history says rampant homophobia means a player won’t be coming out anytime soon

Patrick Kelleher June 22, 2020
David Haigh with Robbie Rogers

David Haigh with Robbie Rogers (Provided)

Gay former football boss David Haigh has said he doesn’t expect Premier League players to come out anytime soon because they would still face “homophobia and abuse”.

Haigh served as managing director of Leeds United between 2013 and 2014.

During that time, the team became the first Stonewall Diversity champion for LGBT+ rights in football and former player Robbie Rogers came out as gay.

But seven years later, Haigh said anti-LGBT+ attitudes in football are still common.

Gay former Leeds United boss David Haigh says ‘nothing ever gets done’ to help football players come out.

“Robbie came out over 2012-13, and seven years on, the reality is there are still no openly gay major players in the game and there is still a lot of homophobia and abuse,” Haigh told Goal.

“There are a lot of initiatives, but there is a lack of leadership and strategy. The Premier League and FA make a lot of fuss every Pride Month, but nothing ever gets done.”

He continued: “It raises visibility, but I don’t think it makes it easier for anyone who is gay to walk into a football match and not get abused.”

It will take one brave player, and we aren’t there yet.

“I still talk to players a little bit, and on real progress has been made – I don’t see a male player coming out any time soon, not now.”

Haigh said he doesn’t blame gay players for not coming out, and said many might be worried about the impact on their careers and on their relationships with teammates.

“It will take one brave player, and we aren’t there yet,” he said.

“If you have spent all your life playing football to get to the position you want, would you risk all of that?”

Progress in football has ‘stagnated’.

Haigh said there is “a positive future” for LGBT+ representation in football, but said current progress has “stagnated”.

He said a gay player would still get “abused and heckled” today despite increased visibility of LGBT+ people in society.

In the wide-ranging interview, Haigh also said his decision to make gay visibility a cornerstone of his time at Leeds ultimately harmed his career.

However, he said it was “the right thing to do from a diversity perspective” and said he would do the same thing again.

Haigh’s comments come just weeks after Amal Fashanu, the niece of Britain’s first openly gay footballer Justin Fashanu, revealed that she is providing support to seven secretly gay professional footballers.

Amal told The Sun: “For a long time the game has been ignoring the issue, but at long last this appears to be changing. The [Professional Footballers Association] has contacted me and made it clear they want to help address the issue.

“They are worried about any player who is suffering in silence. They want to do all they can to make sure any player who wants to make that step is supported.”

 

More: coming out, David Haigh, football, homophobia in football, leeds united, premier league, robbie rogers

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