Football Association chairman Greg Clarke has told MPs that he is “ashamed” of the anti-LGBT culture within the game.
Clarke, who came to the role in 2013, was speaking to the Culture, Media an Sport Committee when he said that it would still be “impossible” for a leading player to come out as LGBT, ESPN reports.
A recent report by Stonewall found that 72% of fans had heard anti-LGBT chants during matches, while around 12% of fans (up to 20% for fans in the 18-24 age bracket) would be ashamed if they’re favourite player came out), suggesting that a vocal minority are propagating a culture of anti-LGBT abuse and sentiment.
Referring to anti-LGBT abuse, Clarke said: “I can’t give you enough of a commitment as to how much I hate that behaviour – it needs stamping out.”
In 1990, Justin Fashanu became the first professional footballer to come out out as gay, but was subjected to abuse both from fans and fellow players. In 2013, Leeds United player Robbie Rogers (pictured above) came out as gay whilst simultaneously retiring from the game to avoid scrutiny from both the press and fans. He later returned to professional football, but in the US leagues.
When asked by Scottish Nationalist Party MP John Nicolson if there were any gay players in the Premier League, Clarke responded that he would be “amazed” if there weren’t, adding that he was “ashamed players don’t have the confidence to come out.”
Nicolson insisted that “football should reflect society,” noting the progress LGBT people had made in other walks of life, while Clarke explained the persistence of homophobia by suggesting that “big crowds make people brave,” adding that “there was no abuse in a crowd of 300 [referring to an Egham vs St Albans game] because everybody knew each other.
Clarke added: “I’m just cautious about advising people to come out until we’ve done our job.”
The problem within English football is reflected in other parts of the worlds. Jesús Tomillero, Spain’s first openly gay referee, has been subjected to death threats since he came out last year, while earlier this month a Mexican football official claimed that calling players “puto” (used in a similar way to “fag”) wasn’t offensive.
Meanwhile former Attitude cover star Robbie Rogers spoken out after receiving homophobic abuse from another player during a match in the US back in August.