I know a dozen gay professional footballers claims retired player

A former professional football player has told a forum on homophobia he knows of a dozen gay men at the top of the game.

Paul Elliott, who played for Celtic, Chelsea and Aston Villa during his 12 year career, was speaking at Homophobia: Football’s Final Taboo, hosted by the FA at their central London headquarters.

Mr Elliott, who now works as an adviser to the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said gay players do not come out because they fear the reaction of fans.

Kick It Out, the organisation dedicated to removing prejudice from football, yesterday launched new campaign.

Professional footballers will link up with schools, universities, community and youth centres, for a nationwide stand against discrimination and for diversity. More than 1,000 events and activities are scheduled to take place.

At last night’s event gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said:

“I would like to see the FA to organise a dozen premier league straight players to condemn homophobia in a MTV-style video. Straight voices are likely to have the strongest impact on homophobic fans.

“To challenge and diminish prejudice, this video could be distributed to football clubs, schools and youth clubs, and it could be played on stadium screens before matches and at half-time.

“The FA and individual clubs should have snappy, visual anti-homophobia messages on tickets, match programmes and billboards near stadiums.”

As well as Mr Elliott and Mr Tatchell, speakers at last night’s event included Lucy Faulkner from the FA, Barney Efthimiou from the Gay Football Supporters Network, and Jason Bartholomew Hall from the Justin Fashanu Campaign.

Mr Fashanu was the only professional footballer so far to confirm he was gay. He came out in 1990 and committed suicide in 1998.

A 2006 survey found out that 57% of footballers think that football is homophobic.