The world would be supportive of an openly gay footballer, according to a new poll.
In the largest survey of football fans on this issue, the new research has found the majority would be happy to have a soccer star that is open about his sexuality.
Around 30,000 fans in 29 countries responded to the poll, organized by gay campaigning charity Stonewall and Swedish app designers Football Addicts.
Fans were asked if they would be comfortable if a player on their national team came out as gay.
The results revealed Sweden and Denmark, where 79% of respondents said they would be comfortable with a gay international player – are the most supportive.
United Kingdom followed with 73%, and Portugal and Italy rounding up the top five with 69% and 68% support.
In Germany and the United States, the issue was more divisive with both countries only being around 50% in support.
James Taylor, head of policy at Stonewall, said football was lagging behind in other areas when it comes to gay people.
‘Over the last 10 years we have seen great strides in attitudes towards lesbian, gay and bisexual people,’ said Taylor.
‘Sadly, our national game has not moved as far or as quickly as other parts of society. It’s clear that more needs to be done to tackle homophobia not just in football, but sport more generally.’
Patrik Arnesson, the co-founder of Football Addicts, pointed out his native Sweden is home to the only domestic league in Europe to have housed an openly gay player – Anton Hysén, now at Myrtle Beach Mutiny – a US football team.
‘[Hysen’s] courage perhaps contributes to the Swedes’ belief that a person’s sexuality is of no relevance and has no impact on their sporting ability,’ he said.
Last year, Robbie Rogers came out, retired and then returned to play for LA Galaxy.
And Thomas Hitzlsperger, the retired German international, also came out as gay, saying he had gone through a ‘long and difficult process’.
Justin Fashanu, the first black player to command a million pound transfer fee in England, was the first to come out as gay in 1990. In 1998, he committed suicide.