Footballer says UK gay players ‘frightened’ to come out due to ‘media’ pressure

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

York City FC player Clarke Carlisle has given an exclusive interview to the Gay Football Supporters’ Network (GSFN) where he discusses homophobia in the sport and the possibility of gay players coming out publicly.

Clarke, who is also an ambassador for the Kick It Out scheme, which campaigns for inclusion and equality in football, and also chair of the Management Committee of the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) said:

“You know it is one of the biggest bugbears for me that no player feels able to come out and talk openly about his sexual orientation”.

When asked about the lack of progress in tackling homophobia in the sport, Clarke admits that gay players need more support in order to help them deal with their “anxieties”.

Clarke then recounts recent discrete conversations he has had with eight gay players in his capacity as PFA chair, saying:

“Seven of the eight said they didn’t want to come out because they were worried about the media. Nothing came of our conversations with these players so I guess we are back to square one”.

Clarke went on: “You have to understand that the use of language in football, in the changing rooms, between players and managers and of course on the terraces is at a pretty base level… so any player thinking about doing this would need to be very brave”.

Despite the prominence of several new openly gay sportmen such as  England cricketer Steven Davies, and Swedish footballer Anton Hysen, Clarke remains worried that any out  English gay footballer would ultimately be “driven out of the game,” because they would not be able to stand “the pressure from the fans and the media”.

In February of this year, the FA launched a new campaign to make football more LGBT tolerant at Wembley Stadium.