Stonewall CEO: ‘I know of gay footballers in the Premier League’

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

There are Premier League footballers who are gay but are too afraid to come out publicly, Ruth Hunt, the chief executive of gay rights charity Stonewall has said.

Speaking to BBC Radio Wales, Ms Hunt said players were worried about management, sponsorship and abuse.

When asked if a gay Premier League player was likely to come out soon, she replied: “I think we are bit of a way off before a player is able to come out”.

Asked if she knew of gay players, Ms Hunt replied: “Yes they exist. And what they say is that they are concerned about management, they are concerned about sponsorship and they are also concerned about the kind of abuse they would get from fans – not from their own fans – but fans from other teams.”

Ms Hunt also discussed alleged homophobic comments directed at Welsh rugby referee Nigel Owens at Twickenham on Saturday.

She said she “expected it at football matches but not rugby union”.

Former Aston Villa, West Ham and Everton midfielder Thomas Hitzlsperger came out as gay in January, three months after retiring.

Former Leeds and US winger Robbie Rogers came out as gay and quit English football in February 2013.

He later reversed his decision to quit the game and signed for LA Galaxy – but as of yet Rogers has no plans to return to the English league.

Before Rogers’ revelation, only two footballers had publicly said they were gay.

Justin Fashanu was the first professional footballer in Britain to come out, in 1990, before he took his own life eight years later, aged 37.

Swedish lower league player Anton Hysen – son of former Liverpool defender Glenn Hysen – came out in an interview with a Swedish football magazine in 2011.