The chairman of the UK Professional Footballers’ Association believes a player will come out as gay soon.
In an interview with the Gay Football Supporter’s Network, soccer player Clarke Carlisle says he has spoken with eight gay footballers and has assured them of PFA support if they decided to make their sexuality public.
Although the British trade union head refused to give a time frame, or hint to their identities, he said the first footballer to do so would become an instant trailblazer.
Carlisle said: ‘We feel the industry has changed and that society has changed and is less homophobic, and they will get all the support they need from the PFA.’
Aware of the lingering homophobia within sections of the game, the York City defender could not guarantee the player would have a trouble-free time.
Justin Fashanu was the first, and only, English footballer to come out in 1990. Eight years later, he committed suicide.
Carlisle said: ‘Something we cannot deny is the first player to do it will attract mass media intrusion and I think that’s what is intimidating – that everything in your life, your family, your relationships, will be under scrutiny.
He added there could be substantial benefits and commercial opportunities for the first person to do it.
‘That’s just a reality, too,’ Carlisle said. ‘But any player considering coming out would need to weigh all this up, particularly the immediate intrusion into their lives.’
Carlisle insisted they would never ‘out’ a player, but only create an atmosphere in which they can come out.
He said: ‘The only point of reference for any of the players who are considering this is Justin Fashanu – and his story is a tragedy.’