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Former Ireland rugby star: ‘Gay people have no interest in sport’

Neil Francis was asked for his comments on Michael Sam's coming out, said gay people were more likely to be interested in hairdressing

Former Ireland rugby star: ‘Gay people have no interest in sport’

A former Ireland rugby star has caused outrage after saying gay people have no interest in sport.

Neil Francis, who played for the national team between 1987 and 1996, is now a sports journalist and broadcaster.

He was asked for his comments following US football player Michael Sam’s decision to come out as gay before entering the NFL draft.

Speaking on Newstalk radio’s ‘Off The Ball’ show, he compared it to the interest straight men have towards hairdressing.

‘You do a survey of the hair-dressing industry and find out how many heterosexuals work in that,’ he said.

‘Professional sport, by its very nature, doesn’t promote [homosexuality]. There are a wide range of people who are homosexual, and… the [sporting] environment… isn’t something that they’re interested in.

‘How many homosexual men play professional sport? I would suspect that nowhere near 10%. I would say in the smaller margin of 1%.

‘What are their interests? I mean, 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.’

Francis then went onto say different kinds of people have different interests, saying: ‘I don’t have an interest in ballet.’

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.’

His comments have caused a huge amount of controversy in Ireland.

Rugby referee Nigel Owens said he was ‘disappointed’ to read the 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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