Europe mourns loss of first openly gay referee

Tributes have been paid this week following the death of the only openly gay referee in the history of professional football.

John Blankenstein, 57, a Dutch official who oversaw the 1993 UEFA Cup final and 1992 European Championship matches died last Friday from a kidney disease.

Blankenstien was an active supporter of the European Gay and Lesbian Sports Federation (EGLSF), and spoke about his experience as an openly gay official at the UEFA ‘Unite Against Racism’ conference in Barcelona earlier this year.

The EGLSF described his loss as “beyond words” and hailed his contribution to challenging homophobia in professional sport. He supported the EGLSF over many years within the Netherlands and later across Europe.

A letter from the EGLSF to his family said: “John, you were the personification of the fight against injustice, homophobia and homo discrimination in sport and outside it.

“You have taught us that we can stand against the resistance against homosexuality in elite sport by being open about it and honest about the person you are.

“You were and you will stay a role model for the fight against homophobia in the world football which often so difficult to reach. Your clear voice and statement on this point has our greatest respect. It also has had influence in on positions of the European Football Federation, UEFA, about discrimination in football including homophobia.

“On behalf of European Gay Lesbian Sport Federation, the Football Against Racism Europe and the Nederlands Cultural Sport federation we thank you for every thing.”