There are gay Premier League footballers who have come out to teammates but fear homophobic backlash from fans, says insider
A number of male Premier League footballers have come out as gay to their teammates while continuing to hide their sexuality in public, an insider has claimed.
The claim came from former England women’s team footballer Eniola Aluko, who says gay male footballers won’t risk coming out in the public domain because of the homophobic backlash they’d face.
Aluko, who is the current director of women’s football at Aston Villa, spoke of a worrying lack of diversity in the sport with the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee on Tuesday (July 7).
Asked to clarify her claim by Labour MP Clive Effort that there are current footballers who have told their teammates that they are gay, Aluko said: “Yes that’s right.
“I think there’s been rumours and all sorts of newspapers that try to get the exclusive on who this player may be.
“Ultimately I think there’s statistics that say of course there would be gay players, and I think the beauty of it is actually 99.9 per cent of players would say ‘I wouldn’t care if my teammate was gay’.
“The issue really now is that fear of what fans will do and are going to say, but I don’t think that is as legitimate a fear as it used to be because we’re living in a world now where being gay is something that is widely accepted.
“Yes, you will be subjected to abuse on social media as women are, as black people are – there’s so much – but I do think now, let’s say if a current Premier League player comes out as gay, they will be widely praised, applauded, lauded and respected.”
Clear ‘distinction’ between coming out as gay in men’s and women’s football.
Aluko went on to discuss the contrasts between men and women’s football, where a high number of female players are openly LGBT+ and happy to share their sexuality with fans.
“I do think there’s a distinction,” she said. “In women’s football you have a lot of players who are very comfortable with being gay and very comfortable with their sexuality. Actually if you are straight you probably stand out more in women’s football — but there’s always that respect in terms of sexuality.
“I think actually in the men’s game, actually knowing people in the men’s game and having a brother in the men’s game, there’s actually not an issue in the dressing room. There are gay players and they’re just as respected and just as loved and just as admired in the dressing room among their teams.
“I think the issue is more public, about what backlash am I going to get, and history doesn’t bode well. We had the tragic case of Justin Fashanu taking his own life, and I do think it’s going to take for a player to just say ‘this is who I am, I’m gay and I’m a great footballer too’ and it doesn’t matter.
“I think that is going to be the game-changer.”
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To this day there hasn’t been a single Premier League player to come out as gay while still playing in the top levels of English football.
Last month the former player Thomas Beattie became only the second English male major league footballer in sporting history to come out as gay, following Justin Fashanu in 1990. Fashanu died by suicide in 1998 after years of homophobic abuse and tabloid harassment. Robbie Rogers, an American player, came out after leaving Leeds FC in 2013.
That there are a number of current Premier League players who are closeted is widely known, with Justin Fashanu’s activist niece Amal Fashanu recently suggesting that at least five are hiding their sexuality.
“No one wants to be the first,” she told the Sun. “In their minds these guys are trapped, ashamed. They think society won’t accept it so instead they live their lives in secret.
“It’s sad that this has to happen. But they would be a trailblazer.”