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Former Ireland rugby star sorry for saying gay people have no interest in sport

Neil Francis says the point he was trying to make was clumsily and poorly expressed, after saying gay people are more likely to be interested in hairdressing and ballet

A former Ireland rugby player has said he is sorry for saying gay people have no interest in sport.

Neil Francis, now a broadcaster and sports journalist, said gay people were far more likely to be interested in hairdressing and ballet in a radio interview.

When asked if he was engaging in unfair stereotypes, he said: ‘I don’t think I'm generalising, I really don't, and I'm entitled to my opinion.’

Francis has now apologized.

Speaking to another radio station, he said: ‘On reflection I would like to withdraw those comments and apologise profusely and unreservedly.’

Francis said that when he listened back to the interview, he felt it did not represent what he believed.

‘I realise I was in a field of landmines and I stood on one or two,’ he told Today FM.

‘Some of the points I was trying to make were clumsily made, and my language and the analogies I was trying to make were quite poor and poorly expressed.’

In the initial interview, he said professional sport by its very nature is not something that gay people are interested in.

 ‘There are a wide range of people who are homosexual, and… the [sporting] environment… isn't something that they're interested in,’ he said.

 ‘If you’ve ever sat down with homosexual people, and asked them what their interests are, very often they have no interest in any kind of sport. That's my experience from sitting down with them; I’ve done it on a regular basis.’

Rugby referee Nigel Owens said he was ‘disappointed’ to read Francis’ comments.

Writing on his Facebook page, he said: ‘Sport is for all. No matter who you are or where you’re from.

‘Many gay people play sport at all levels. Just most have chosen not to come out and that is their choice. A choice, which should be respected.

‘Be yourself and do what’s right for you. Let’s make sport a safe and welcoming environment for all. I have honestly been made welcome everywhere I go when officiating rugby, and that my friends I am truly grateful and humbled for.

‘Rugby Union has shown the way. Let us hope ALL other sports can follow slowly but surely some are.’

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