Homosexuality in football: Three players speaking to FA about coming out, says MP

Thomas Hitzlsperger
Former Aston Villa and West Ham player Thomas Hitzlsperger came out after he finished playing in England

Three players are in contact with the Football Association about coming out as gay, according to MP John Nicolson.

He made the comments during a Department of Culture, Media and Sport hearing into homophobia in sport.

The BBC understands the FA disputes the MP's comments - though it says it would support any players who chose to.

In October, FA chairman Greg Clarke told MPs that Premier League players would suffer "significant abuse" if they chose to reveal they are gay.

Speaking to Nicolson at the committee hearing, sports minister Tracey Crouch said "there has never been a better time" to come out.

She told MPs that Clarke's comments were "incredibly disappointing" and "strange", adding: "If someone were to decide to come out, they should feel like they are being supported by the authorities and that any abuse would be tackled."

In response, Nicolson said that Clarke had been invited back to present an action plan to MPs, because it was "not good enough" to say an openly gay player would suffer abuse.

"I understand three players are in talks with the FA about coming out and they haven't done so yet," said Scottish National Party MP Nicolson. "It's good to know that you're encouraging people to come out."

When asked about Nicolson's comments, an FA spokesperson said: "We have been and are working hard so that if a player felt they wanted to have the conversation about coming out, we would be there and offer any and all the support we could. Ultimately it has to be an individual's personal choice."

Justin Fashanu became the first player in England to come out as gay in 1990, but took his own life aged 37 in 1998. No male professional player has come out while playing in England since.

Former Germany and Aston Villa player Thomas Hitzlsperger became the first player with Premier League experience to publicly reveal his homosexuality, in January 2014, after he had finished playing in England.

Former England women's captain Casey Stoney was the first active footballer to come out in England since Fashanu, in February 2014.

In October, a BBC Radio 5 live study found that 82% of football supporters would have no issue with their club signing a gay player.

However, 8% of fans said they would stop watching their team.

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