One in 12 football fans would stop supporting their team if a player came out as gay

Nearly a tenth of football fans say they would no longer watch their team’s matches if a player came out.

The last player to come out in the top tiers of English football was Justin Fashanu, who came out in 1990 but died by suicide in 1998 after years of homophobic abuse and allegations of sexual assault.

Former Leeds United player Robbie Rogers and former Aston Villa player Thomas Hitzlspergerhave both come out as gay, but only after retiring from the sport.

Appearing in Parliament earlier this month, Football Association chair Greg Clarke said he felt a gay player would still face homophobic abuse as Fashanu did, insisting: “I think there would be significant abuse. I don’t think we’ve cracked the problem yet.”

His comments were challenged by former England player Chris Sutton, who insisted there has never been a better time to come out.

Today, a ComRes survey of 4000 sports fans carried out for BBC Radio 4’s Afternoon Edition sheds light on the attitudes that persist within football.

82 percent of football fans said they would be comfortable with a gay player on a team, but 9% of football fans were uncomfortable.

Shockingly, 8% of football fans said they would not want to watch their team if there was a gay player, though 87% disagreed.

18% of fans claimed that having a gay player would make other teammates feel uncomfortable , while 65% said it would not.

50% of fans reported hearing homophobic abuse at a football match.

Speaking on Radio 4, Sutton said that people should not allow a minority of football fans to keep players in the closet.

He said: “Coming out wouldn’t be a problem in the workplace. Working at a football club is just like anywhere else. Players I played with wouldn’t bat an eyelid.

“This 8% shouldn’t be allowed in football grounds. By not taking it on, the 8% are the winners in all of this. Greg Clarke should be taking these people on.

“It’s bonkers in our society that people like this can dictate whether someone can come out or not.”