Professional Footballers’ Association predicts more gay players will be inspired to come out

PinkNews logo surrounded by illustrated images including a rainbow, unicorn, PN sign and pride flag.

The chief executive of the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) predicts other gay footballers will come out following Thomas Hitzlsperger’s announcement this week.

On Wednesday, the former Aston Villa, West Ham and Everton midfielder told Germany’s Die Zeit: “I’m coming out about my homosexuality because I want to move the discussion about homosexuality among professional sportspeople forwards.”

He added: “I’ve never been ashamed of the way I am”.

Prime Minister David Cameron, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Labour leader Ed Miliband congratulated the star for coming out.

Figures in the world of football, including Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker and Queens Park Rangers midfielder Joey Barton praised Hitzlsperger for his openness.

Hitzlsperger retired from the sport in September 2013 at the age of 31 after a series of injury problems.

There are currently no known openly gay footballers in the English and Scottish professional leagues.

When asked if the announcement could prove an inspiration for others still in the game to follow, PFA Chief Executive Gordon Taylor told Sky Sports News: “I would expect so. I would hope so.

“That would be saying there’s no reason for him to fear anything and it’s the same as our women footballers. From that point of view, it would be an indication there’s a much more civilised approach.”

Mr Taylor added: “You can see that a current player coming out would be subject to a great deal of media scrutiny but it’s happened in other sports such as cricket and rugby. I would be pleased that football is no different.”

However, others in the sporting world believe football still has a long way to go in accepting gay players.

On Thursday, Thomas Hitzlsperger told BBC Radio 4′s Today programme: “We still have a long way to go because we fear a reaction and we don’t know what will happen,” he added: “I can’t imagine playing football and doing this at the same time.”

Earlier this week, Michael Johnson resigned as an equality advisor to England’s Football Association, following fresh scrutiny of homophobic comments he made back in 2012.