Groundbreaking gay footballer urges players to ‘just be themselves’

A footballer who made history by being the first openly gay player to walk out onto the new Wembley Stadium has called for more people to ‘just be themselves’.

Liam Davies, who plays for Cleethorpes Town FC, also rubbished comments by FA Chairman Greg Clarke that people were ‘taking a risk’ by coming out.

The football boss told Parliament’s Culture, Media and Sport committee in 2016 that players would still face “significant abuse”, something he felt “ashamed about”.

He also said this year that the men’s game was two decades behind the women’s in terms of LGBT inclusion.

Speaking to the Telegraph though, Davis said that Clarke was “a bit of a numpty”.

“It’s a very disparaging view of footballers,” he continued. “I’m certain it would be perfectly fine. Not once have I had a problem, the game has been brilliant to me, as it would be to them.”

However, while Davis, a part-time professional, was on the line-up for the FA Vase at Wembley this year, there are currently no out players in the Premier League.

The last openly gay player 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 Hitzlsperger have both come out as gay, but only after retiring from the sport.

Both Clarke and Davis do believe there are gay players within football though, with an MP also claiming three players were considering coming out last year.

However, when the FA Boss tried to extend the invitation to a private coffee with any gay players earlier this year, to try and understand what could be done, no one replied.

Davis, who only plays football part-time, was accidentally outed by his local paper and understands that the pressure must be intense.

“For a non-league footballer it was mental,” he added. “My phone was doing my head in. I can’t imagine what the velocity would be like for any Premier League footballer coming out.

However, he continued: “It seems to me bizarre that we’re really not getting anywhere, that people are still reluctant to come out.

“I want to tell them that literally I have never had any issues, no problems, nothing but a positive response.

“If I can get that out there, that football is a wonderfully supportive environment, then I guess I should.”