FA boss Greg Clarke wanted to meet gay footballers, but received zero replies

Football Association (FA) boss Greg Clarke was left disappointed after he put out a request to meet with gay players.

The FA received no responses following their open invite to professionals.

Clarke had hoped there would be at least one player willing to speak, in a bid to learn how to help football stars in the closet.

Greg Clarke, Chairman of The FA

There hasn’t been an openly gay or bisexual men’s football player at top-flight level since Justin Fashanu, who tragically took his own life in 1998.

Clarke told The Telegraph: “I understand the retinence. I went to the women’s cup final. It was great.

“There was gay, there was straight, there were kids, it was relaxed. It was like a big wedding reception.

“I had a great time. There was no judgement in the room. Everyone was there because they wanted to see the game.

“I’ve met a lot of gay activists, gay publishers. I went down to Stonewall, watched a game, had a beer in the bar afterwards – and talked about the issue.

“At the semi-pro level and below, nobody’s worried.

“I haven’t met one player at professional level who would even agree to meet me in the middle of nowhere for a conversation over a cup of coffee. Not one.

“I don’t blame them for that. If they don’t feel comfortable having that conversation, it doesn’t say good things about our game.”

Greg Clarke, Chairman of The FA

He previously admitted that he did not believe top level football was ready for an out gay star.

While appearing before Parliament’s Culture, Media and Sport Committee Clarke 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.”

Asked if he felt a gay player would face levels of abuse as Fashanu did, he said: “I think there would be significant abuse. I don’t think we’ve cracked the problem yet.”

An English referee, Ryan Atkin came out in an interview with Sky Sports in August.

In the interview, he said: “I think from a general perception outside of the referring community I think if people are making homophobic remarks it should be treated the same as racist remarks.

Related: Why are there no gay footballers in the Premier League?

“And people should be removed from grounds and they should receive bans because it’s exactly the same. Why it’s not dealt with the same we don’t know yet, but we will get there eventually.”

The ref gave a wide-ranging interview with Sky last week where he spoke about his sexuality and the homophobia that still blights football.

“For a number of reasons, I feel it’s the right time for me to say that I’m someone involved in professional football who happens to be gay,” Atkin said.

“Clearly, this is a step into the unknown – in our UK pro game, it’s widely known that there are currently no openly gay footballers, nor have there been any openly gay referees until now.

“I hope that my action, however small, will help give others in a similar situation the confidence to be themselves.”