Rugby star Cohen backs gay players

PinkNews logo on a pink background surrounded by illustrated line drawings of a rainbow, pride flag, unicorn and more.

England rugby union player Ben Cohen has spoken out about the absence of any openly gay players in the sport.

Cohen, 29, who has a following in the gay community and has appeared at events in gay venues, last year moved to French club Brive after 11 years at Northampton Saints.

Speaking to the winger said that in his opinion it “would be fine” for a rugby player to come out as gay.

“Most rugby players are cool about it and think that people should be allowed to live their lives how they want to, but I can’t speak for everyone,” he said.

“The key thing is the individual needs to be able to take the pressure of top-level rugby and the knowledge that his team mates know he is gay.

“I don’t know for sure, but my feelings are that if he were completely open about it, after the first bit of banter, things would calm down.”

Cohen, who is married, told the website that he is planning a night for gay fans in London in March and to his knowledge he has never played with anyone who is gay.

Despite Cohen’s positive comments, there are no openly gay men in professional rugby or football in the UK.

Last year referee Nigel Owens talked about being only openly gay man to be a rugby union ref at the highest level of the game. He officiated at the Rugby World Cup in France last year.

Mr Owens, from Pontyberem, South Wales, said:

“It’s such a big taboo to be gay in my line of work. I had to think very hard because I didn’t want to jeopardise my career.

“I don’t know of any gay rugby players I could have confided in.

“But I knew I couldn’t go on being unhappy and keeping the truth hidden.”

Mr Owens informed most people of his sexuality by text message.

In November 2006 Bob Rogers, the president of the Rugby Football Union (RFU) said the sport’s values of respect can help create an impact on wider society.

The RFU joined with gay rugby team the Kings Cross Steelers and the Metropolitan Police to launch a new poster campaign against homophobia.

The message is based on the Football Association’s Kick Racism Out of Football campaign, which also includes homophobia.

Posters will be displayed at sporting venues in changing rooms and where participants and spectators gather.

Gay rugby club the Kings Cross Steelers’ chairman Sean Robertson told last year:

“Rugby doesn’t have problems with homophobia like other sports.

“The game teaches tolerance, respect and sportsmanship.”