Preview: Britain’s Gay Footballers

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

A documentary by the niece of the late gay footballer Justin Fashanu examines tonight why he remains the only professional footballer in the UK to have ever come out.

Amal Fashanu’s uncle killed himself in 1998 following years of struggles with homophobic bullying and an investigation into an alleged sexual assault, which was dropped.

In the film, Justin’s brother John Fashanu tell his daughter: “I think there’s more chance of the next Pope being black, than you finding a footballer who will come out and say he’s gay.

“Even straight players will not talk about gay players or gay society… I don’t think in two decades of football I have ever witnessed the abuse that your uncle Justin [Fashanu] received, from all sections of the stadium.”

Amal Fashanu helped launched the Justin Campaign on 19 February 2010, which would have been the former Norwich City player’s 49th birthday. Now, she questions figures from the game past and present on why none of the 5,000 professional footballers in the UK is openly gay.

In the film, publicist Max Clifford, tells her: “I’d say in the last 15 years, probably half a dozen [players] that I know are either gay or bi-sexual. There have been others that I suspect….When gay footballers have come to me to protect their identity, they have made it very clear that their career would be finished if they were known to be openly gay.”

John McGovern, former Nottingham Forrest Team Captain’s comments were widely reported. When asked about his club’s manager Brian Clough calling Fashanu a ‘poof’, he says: “I don’t even call that discrimination. It’s another word for what we’re talking about, being a homosexual.”

Swede Anton Hysen and American David Testo are the only professional footballer in the world who are publicly out.

On the future of a game with so few openly gay players, Simon Smith of the Gay Football Support Network told today: “We believe that British football fans and players would be comfortable with an openly gay player.

“Most comments we hear from fans suggest they don’t care about a players sexuality just that they perform well on the pitch.

“We feel there is certainly an ‘old guard’ amongst the football hierarchy who just don’t understand the concept of a gay professional footballer but they are certainly lagging behind the attitudes of modern Britain. In next 10 years we feel that a players sexuality will be a non-story and there will be openly gay people in football in the same way we now have gay politicians, teachers and even soldiers.”

In the documentary, Joey Barton, Queens Park Rangers tells Fashanu: “Certain managers….certain individuals within the game will discriminate against people. These archaic figures think if they had a gay footballer that there would be all kinds of shenanigans going on in the dressing room.”

Openly gay former NBA player, John Amaechi, says: “Football is run by a group of straight, white, old men. Football is clearly not that comfortable with women in board rooms, clearly not that comfortable with black people in management positions. And so, when it comes to gay people, that just blows their mind”

Britain’s Gay Footballers will be shown on BBC3 tonight at 9pm GMT.