Jesus Tomillero: Gay Spanish referee quit over 'humiliating' abuse

jesus tomillero
Openly gay Spanish referee Jesus Tomillero says he has been "hurt deeply" by homophobic insults

Spain's first openly gay football referee says more will follow his lead by coming out - even though he quit after being verbally abused.

Jesus Tomillero, 21, spoke to the BBC on the day a Parliamentary inquiryexternal-link into homophobia in sport heard from experts who criticised sporting bodies for a lack of action on the issue.

The former referee similarly complained of a lack of support within the game.

"It's been humiliating," Tomillero told BBC World Service's Azi Farni.

But he added: "I have broken the ice and more will come out now. For me, that will be an honour.

"They will have my full unconditional support. The more of us there are, the stronger we will be. And I'm telling them to come out. To be strong like me. To be brave. And for us to keep fighting for what we want."

Wednesday's Culture, Media and Sport committee hearing was told UK bodies had signed a charter for action in 2010, but little has been done since.

Professor Ian Rivers from University of Strathclyde, who carried out the first international study of homophobia in sport,external-link was one of three experts to give evidence.

"There is an inactivity within the clubs and within the boardrooms that actually needs to be addressed," he said.

His study said 80% of almost 10,000 participants had witnessed or experienced homophobia in sport.

Dr Jamie Cleland, from Loughborough University, agreed sports leaders have done little to send a message that gay and lesbian athletes would be welcomed if they came out, but he added most fans would support such sportspeople.

Tomillero, who suggested there are gay referees officiating in La Liga, said he had received support from Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and former Real Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas, as well as his fellow officials.

But he said fans, football clubs, coaches and players had made "deplorable" remarks and "homophobic slurs".

Fourteen months ago, Tomillero posted a picture of himself and his boyfriend on social media with the caption: "This is where my happiness starts."

He said: "I had to be brave and say 'here I am, I will be the first one who admits it'. Who cares what they say to me?

"The clubs would say things like: 'Look, there is the fag referee.'

"I wanted the Andalusian Football Federation to make a law against homophobia - games suspended or a high fine to be paid because the last fine issued for insulting me with a homophobic slur was 150 euros (£115).

"We shouldn't be insulted in every game, nor threatened and even attacked. That is what I find deplorable. I think that civilisation is not up to date yet."

Tomillero is gathering signatures to present to the European Parliament asking for a law against homophobia in sport.

Boxers Manny Pacquiao and Tyson Fury have been heavily criticised for comments about homosexuality in the past year.

Filipino Pacquiao - a six-weight world champion - said homosexuals were "worse than animals", while British heavyweight world champion Fury provoked outrage when he equated homosexuality with paedophilia.

Tomillero said the fight for equality in football is also "complicated".

"In football, the problem is that people think it's a 'macho men' sport," he said.

"I think that this sport can be enjoyed by homosexuals, transsexuals, bisexuals, by anyone."

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