Football pundit Graeme Souness celebrated for LGBTQ+ allyship as he steps down from Sky Sports

Graeme Souness

Graeme Souness is being celebrated for his LGBTQ+ allyship after stepping down as a Sky Sports pundit after 15 years.

The 69-year-old retired Scottish footballer, who has been a regular on Sky Sports for more than a decade, announced his departure to viewers after Liverpool’s 4-3 win over Tottenham on Sunday (30 April).

“I was given an opportunity to do this and it was magnificent,” he said in an interview with the broadcaster. 

“It has been the most fantastic time for me. I love football, I care about football and I worry about it going forward, but in Sky’s hands it is in good hands, it is in safe hands.

“Nothing goes on forever, I have got lots of things coming up. It has been great, so thank you to everyone.”

Souness, who started his football career playing for Tottenham before he captained Liverpool in the 1980s and later played for and managed the Rangers, has been an open and vocal supporter of the LGBTQ+ community.

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A clip of Souness speaking about LGBTQ+ rights and football has since been shared widely, with many praising his outspoken advocacy for queer people.

One social media user praised Souness for his participation in LGBTQ+ events, such as the Rainbow Laces Campaign and Brighton Pride, which they said was “impactful” and “reached people that others couldn’t”.

Another celebrated Souness for opening his mind on LGBTQ+ issues, saying “the mark of someone is if they can change their mind and admit it”.

While others simply celebrated his “honest” journey from homophobic changing rooms to becoming a firm LGBTQ+ ally.

‘We have to create an environment where they feel comfortable’

In 2019, Souness discussed the lack of openly gay players in the Premier League, telling Sky News: “I think football, the FA and Premier League need to look at themselves and ask the question why has no one ever come out. 

“I think football has not created an environment where anyone would feel comfortable and confident about saying ‘look, I am gay’.

“There must be gay players and bisexual players playing in the Premier League but no one has felt comfortable enough to come out and say ‘this is me’.” 

He went on to comment on how his time in football was “extremely homophobic”, particularly the “banter” in changing rooms.

Souness urged everyone to attend Brighton Pride

In the same interview, Souness commented on attending Brighton Pride that year, where he walked under a giant footballer balloon with players from Proud United. 

Proud United is a team made up of LGBTQ+ footballers from across the UK.

“I came down and took part in the parade here, and it was enlightening, I mean I learnt so much and it changed my attitude and it was a fabulous day out,” Souness said.

“I found it extremely educational … I would tell anyone if you want to learn more come down here for that parade and you’ll go away with a completely different opinion.

“We have to create an environment where they feel comfortable.”

Speaking at the Pride event, Souness said: “Society has made such giant strides generally in terms of LGBTQ+, that as football people we’ve got to ask why does the issue of homophobia persist within our community and the professional game and challenge that.

“I’m here today as an ally and to bring attention to members of the LGBT community in the amateur game who are leading the charge in that conversation.”

Souness’ allyship has also see him speak out to mark the annual activation of the Rainbow Laces campaign. 

In a Super Sunday discussion about homophobia in men’s football with Alex Scott, Souness said that as a man in his 60s, he wants to learn and commented on how he “came away feeling richer” for attending Brighton Pride. 

The Sky Sports pundit also participated in a roundtable chat alongside Celtic captain Scott Brown in the same year, where he said: “I don’t think anyone who’s got a modicum of intelligence thinks it’s right that people can be abused, and sometimes very badly abused, for their sexuality.” 

After Souness announced his departure from Sky Sports on Sunday, fellow commentator and former player Gary Neville praised him as “one of the very best” at his job and added that he is “really sorry to see him go”. 

Gary Hughes, the director of football at Sky Sports, told PinkNews: “We will miss Graeme’s no-nonsense approach in the studio – matched only by his playing style. 

“The insight and winning mentality he brought to our viewers as a result of his years of experience as both a player and a manager has been invaluable to our coverage. We wish him all the best for the future.”

A reel of Souness’ best moments throughout his 15 years has been posted to Sky Sports Premier League’s Twitter page. 

The tribute has been liked more than 39,000 times.