Now Reading
Max Clifford says football is in ‘dark ages’ on gay players

Max Clifford says football is in ‘dark ages’ on gay players

Britain’s leading publicist Max Clifford has stated that football is in the ‘dark ages’ when it comes to gay and bisexual players.

He makes his comments in a BBC3 documentary screening on Monday (30 January) at 9pm, called Britain’s Gay Footballers.

In the documentary Amal Fashanu, niece of Justin Fashanau, the only ever openly gay British professional soccer player, who came out 20 years ago but soon after committed suicide, examines why no other gay player has followed in her uncle’s boots.

She hears chanting on the terraces at a Brighton match, where the team has been attacked with homophobic insults by rival fans due to the city’s highly visible lesbian, gay and bisexual population.

She also speaks to Matt Lucas, the openly gay comic who is a big soccer fan.

Max Clifford, who has helped several premiership football stars keep their sexuality secret, tells her that over 15 to 20 years he knows of half a dozen gay or bisexual professional players and has suspected many more. But he says none will come out.

‘When gay footballers have come to me over the years looking to protect their identity they have made it very clear to me that in their view their career would be over,’ he tells her.

He adds it would be ‘totally unacceptable’ in the changing room and that the players he has spoken to have feared they will be ‘ostracised’.

‘Also I think the mentality of other people in and around football goes back pretty much to the dark ages,’ he says.

However when Fashanu finally negotiates some access to straight premiership stars at south-London based club Millwall she learns that attitudes amongst many footballers may not be as bad as feared.

The premiership's most controversial and outspoken player, Joey Barton, who like Amal has a gay uncle, expresses 'pity' for his fellow professionals who lack the courage to speak out on the subject, but blames the homophobia on some of the 'archaic figures' who run the game.

The Gay Football Supporters Network (GFSN) has welcomed the documentary and said they were consulted on it.

GFSN chair Chris Basiurski, said: ‘We hope it stimulates debate on why professional players do not feel comfortable enough to be open about their sexuality. The UK is at the forefront of LGBT sport with the world's only national gay football league so it seems strange that the attitudes in the professional game are so far behind.’

The GFSN has consistently lobbied the Football Association (FA) and the government to help create a better environment in which lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered players can feel comfortable to 'come out' and live their lives openly.

There has been much criticism of the FA for dragging their feet on tackling homophobia in contrast to their extensive work on kicking racism out of the game. Despite this, amateur gay football is starting to flourish, the GFSN claims.

Basiurski adds: ‘We do however think it is important to emphasise that at the amateur level, LGBT participation in football is flourishing.

'The GFSN National League is the world's only national 11-a-side football league aimed at the LGBT community and currently has 15 teams from across the United Kingdom. Four gay football teams compete in the mainstream FA county leagues and many of our teams regularly play in international tournaments.’