Russell Tovey wants to see a gay Premier League footballer in ‘next few years’

The actor has shared his hope that a Premier League footballer will come out as gay in the next few years.

Russell Tovey has said he would like to see an openly gay Premier League footballer come out in the next few years.

Despite acknowledging the prospect of being the first player to come out as gay must be a “terrifying prospect”, the actor argued it is about time a player felt able to do so.

“I hope it happens within the next few years, it just takes one person to be brave enough to do it,” he told The Evening Standard.

He added that rather than damage their career, coming out would actually benefit the player.

“Apparently there is a big sponsorship deal for the first big Premier League player to come out, a multi-million pound deal, but no one has picked it up yet.

“They are going to be elevated to some level beyond what they are doing in sport and if you are the first person to do that then it is a terrifying prospect because of the attention that is going to get,” he continued.

“Football crowds are so tribal, it’s gladiatorial, and they seize on any weakness their opponents show and sadly in football being gay is still seen as a weakness.”

In his latest film, The Pass, the actor plays a closeted football star who is haunted by the night he kissed a teammate.

No player has come out publicly while still at a Premier League club.

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.

In 2014, retired former Aston Villa midfielder Thomas Hitzlsperger made headlines around the world, after he revealed he is gay to a German newspaper.

US International player Robbie Rogers came out publicly as gay in February 2013 and immediately announced his retirement from football, departing Leeds United as a midfielder. He later returned the sport.

Other UK sports – such as rugby – are proving ever more accepting of gay players, with players Keegan Hirst and Sam Stanley coming out in recent months to universal praise