Ted Lasso’s ‘refreshing’ gay storyline praised by LGBTQ+ sports experts: ‘I want a spin-off’

Ted Lasso's fictional gay AFC Richmond football player Colin Hughes (Billy Harris, right) and partner Michael (Sam Liu)(Apple TV+)

Prominent LGBTQ+ advocates have praised Ted Lasso for its “significant” depiction of gay male professional footballers.

Apple TV+’s hugely popular series finally delivered for the LGBTQ+ community in its third season by giving fictional AFC Richmond player Colin Hughes (Billy Harris) a moving coming out story.

The representation comes at a time when LGBTQ+ visibility in football is under the spotlight. Over the past two years, a handful of professional male footballers across the world – including Australia’s Josh Cavallo, Blackpool’s Jake Daniels and Czech Republic international Jakub Jankto – have all had high-profile coming out moments.

Meanwhile, fans shared their outrage at the 2022 FIFA World Cup taking place in notoriously anti-LGBTQ+ Qatar. As LGBTQ+ football news consistently makes headlines, it’s no surprise that fans praised Ted Lasso for tackling possibly football’s most taboo topic.

During a Pride special of The Footballco Business Podcast, hosted by Jon Holmes, founder of Sports Media LGBT+, Erin Williams, sports engagement manager for LGBTQ+ charity Stonewall, and TV and film writer Jack King spoke about why this “queer sports” representation is so badly needed.

Ted Lasso Colin Hughes
Fans of Ted Lasso praised the “nonchalant” reveal of queer character Colin Hughes (Billy Harris, right). (Apple TV+)

“I think it was more advanced than what we’ve seen in a lot of other shows,” Williams told Holmes. “I was excited. I love it when I get to see queer things on sports programmes, on anything. It’s still at that point [where] representation is still important.”

You may like to watch

In episode three of the third season, viewers discover Colin is secretly dating a man, Michael (Sam Liu) and things move on from there.

We see Colin confiding in gay football journalist Trent Crimm (James Lance), coming out to his wonderfully supportive team and, in the season finale, sharing a kiss with his partner on the football field.

“I had so many people texting me, [asking] ‘Have you seen it? Have you seen it?’ And I was pleasantly surprised when I saw how Trent Crimm as the journalist handled it,” Williams added.

She also expressed love for Trent’s character, who becomes a friend and mentor to Colin.

“I could see his [Trent] own storyline carry on from season one, where he was this quiet English football journalist… just doing his job but being able to turn on those areas of editing and empathy.

“I’ve been there as a person in my thirties who’s been out for a very long time, working with young people, coaching them, and seeing them mirror my journey, and be: ‘Right, this is the moment to be that person I wish I had’. I think Trent does that.”

James Lance as Trent in Ted Lasso.
James Lance as Trent Crimm in Ted Lasso. (Apple TV+)

Although the creators have confirmed Ted Lasso is officially over, they haven’t ruled out a spin-off.

“I would have loved to see more,” Williams said. “I want a spin-off. I want the rest of the series to just be about Colin and Trent and their journey.”

King also praised Trent’s character for avoided the trope of a fictional ruthless journalist who abandons their ethics for a scoop.

“I thought it was refreshing that Trent wasn’t just depicted in that kind of stereotypical journalistic way, then, of course, we find out why is because he’s also gay.

“The forthrightness and the honesty of the conversation they share [Colin and Trent] is really sweet.

“I’m not going to use a superlative like revolutionary, but it was significant to see that kind of story unfolding. It was obviously incredibly timely and reflective of the conversations that we’re having. It was really refreshing to see.”

The importance of this rarely told story is not lost on Ted Lasso star Harris, who spoke about his reaction to his character’s arc during an interview with British GQ in April.

“It was one of the first things I thought of as a football fan myself,” he said. “That if they had a gay storyline, this would be huge, this would be so important. Because it exists.

“There are some people who maybe think about the player, but don’t think about the person. All these athletes have a life outside the 90 minutes they play on a football field, and if we can show that in some sort of way, it’s so important.”

Seasons one to three of Ted Lasso are available to watch on Apple TV+.