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Tom Allen overcomes gay fear at first Premier League football match – WATCH

'The Apprentice: You're Fired!' host tackles diversity in football with Sky Sports presenter and Attitude Sports Editor Mark McAdam.

By Will Stroude

Football is fast making strides when it comes to inclusion and diversity, but while LGBTQ fan groups and campaigns like Stonewall’s rainbow Laces are helping to break down barriers, the idea of attending a Premier League match day can still be a daunting experience for some.

Among them is comedian Tom Allen, who says the “frightening” atmosphere of the straight machismo surrounding the game turned him away for it as a child: something he’s looking set to overcome in a new Sky series addressing LGBTQ inclusion in sport.

Created by Sky Sports presenter and Attitude Sports Editor Mark McAdam, I’m Game sees LGBTQ celebrities including Allen, Stephen K Amos, Stephen Bailey and Judge Rinder challenge their preconceptions surrounding sport.

“For me as a young gay man, sport felt like something other people did”, Allen explains as he accompanies McAdam to West Ham’s London Stadium for his first ever Premier League match day.

“I never felt quite like I belonged there… and if I got involved they might laugh at me or be unkind.”

 The film, which premiered on Sunday (8 December), sees Tom and Mark meeting with members of West Ham’s LGBTQ fan group, Pride of Irons, as well as the club’s vice-chairman (and Allen’s The Apprentice bedfellow) Karen Brady.

Speaking to Attitude, McAdam revealed the inspiration for I’m Game, saying: “I came up with the idea a couple of years ago, because every time I went to an Attitude event I’d meet all these amazing famous people who’d say I’ve never been to see sport, I never go to football’.

“All these people I kept meeting were so scared to go and had no connection with it, so I wanted to do a series where people can see for themselves what it’s like.” 

He goes on: “Obviously taking Tom to West Ham was hugely exciting for me. He was literally celebrated as the gay man and comedian that he is.

“Every time we walked around the stadium people were saying hello, wanting selfies, and just engaging with him.”

The last game of the Rainbow Laces 2019 season between West Ham and Arsenal is set to take place on Monday night (9 December, kick-off 8pm on Sky Sports), and McAdam adds: “The Rainbow Laces campaign is such an important campaign to get people into sport and raise awareness about issues of homophobia and inclusion in the game.

“Tom loved the game and enjoyed it, and it was just a brilliant celebration of what Rainbow Laces is about.”