Government ‘will work with FA to encourage gay footballers’

The government will work with the Football Association to encourage gay footballers to come out, equality minister Lynne Featherstone has said.

She was asked by Conservative MP Mark Menzies at Commons question time today what can be done to encourage a “welcoming atmosphere” in the sport, following cricketer Steven Davies and rugby player Gareth Thomas’ announcements that they are gay.

Ms Featherstone congratulated the sportsmen for coming out and added: “Obviously it is very important and we look forward to working with the Football Association to create an atmosphere and ambience where footballers also feel free to come forward and come out if they wish.

“Not just for the sake of the league and themselves but also for the sake of youngsters all over the country who should be able to play on any field of sport free of any kind of discrimination.”

This week, Swedish footballer Anton Hysen, the son of former Liverpool player Glenn Hysen, announced he is gay.

The UK has had just one openly gay top-level footballer. Justin Fashanu, who killed himself in 1998, suffered taunts and bullying over his sexuality.

Last year, the FA cancelled the premiere of an anti-homophobia video it had produced. Officials said they had more to do on the film, although they said it would be shown to match stewards as a training and education tool.

While Elton John, the chief of the Rugby Football Union and the gay Irish hurler Donal Óg Cusack backed the video, not a single footballer came forward to support it.