Sports Minister: ‘Gay footballers must be encouraged to come out’

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Tracey Crouch says gay footballers should be supported and protected.

The UK Sports minister has hit out at FA chairman Greg Clarke, saying gay football players should be supported and encouraged to come out.

Tracey Crouch described Clarke’s recent comments regarding homosexuality in football as “unhelpful”.

She also reminded the FA that its job is to support players, not discourage them.

Appearing in Parliament last month, Clarke said that he felt a gay player would still face “vile” homophobic abuse if they came out.

“I think there would be significant abuse. I don’t think we’ve cracked the problem yet,” he said.

“I would be amazed if we haven’t got gay players in the Premiere League, and I am personally ashamed that they don’t feel safe to come out.”

However, Crouch today disputed Clarke’s claims when speaking in the House Commons earlier today.

“The reported comments are indeed unhelpful and we should be encouraging and supporting people in all sports who wish to come out,” she said.

“We need to make sure we use existing legislation to stop homophobic chanting and language during sporting events.”

Although she acknowledged that the “FA is working hard on trying to support people” and that “progress has been made in tackling homophobia,” she said more needs to be done.

“Supporting players is absolutely essential,” she added.

Crouch is not the first person to disagree with Clarke’s comments.

In a recent column for the Daily Mail, former Chelsea player Chris Sutton said the chairman’s claim was unhelpful in convincing footballers to come 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.