In an interview with The Times today the FA’s Chairman Greg Clarke spoke about his determination to create an environment where gay and bi male professional footballers can be open about their sexual orientation.
Clarke has spoken to 15 sportspeople from the LGBT community in the last few weeks and has clearly listened to their views, acknowledging and respecting that, at the moment, some players just don’t want to be open about their sexual orientation in public.
Mindful of the dynamics of the football season and rivalries between teams, he suggested that the most sensible way forward would be to co-ordinate the ‘coming out’ of several top footballers at the beginning of the season, when fans are generally in a good mood because there’s everything for their team to play for.
We are encouraged to see such commitment from the highest levels of football in England to LGBT professional footballers.
Greg Clarke is taking the right approach in reaching out to LGBT athletes - from across sport - listening to their concerns, and coming up with thoughtful proposals to support those who might be ready to be public about their sexual orientation.
His proposal would mitigate the fear that any one player might have about being singled out for their sexual orientation.
It is important that this doesn’t become a media circus, trying to guess who those male gay or bi professional footballers are.
This only adds to the problem, creating a frenzy around gay and bi professional players, singling them out, and not giving them the space to talk about their experience in their own terms and at their own time.
Greg Clarke’s intervention is right – it is the world of sport that needs to change and create the right environment for LGBT athletes.
At this time, the best thing that the sports media and sports industry can do is talk about and act on their support for LGBT people in all sports, at all levels.
Call out anti-LGBT language, challenge so-called ‘banter’, tell your friends and your followers why you’re proud to stand by the side of LGBT people.
And this can’t just come from football – homophobia, biphobia and transphobia exist in all sports, and we need leaders in each sport to step up and change the culture.
Only this will create an environment where all LGBT people in sport can feel comfortable and safe being themselves.
Find out more about Stonewall's commitment to make sport everyone's game through our Rainbow Laces campaign.