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English fans ‘will welcome gay players’


Most sports fans in England, Wales and Scotland say they would be comfortable with their club signing a gay player, according to a BBC Radio 5 live survey.

It found 82% of supporters would have no issue with a gay player. However, 8% of football fans said they would stop watching their team. Last week, Football Association chairman Greg Clarke told MPs he was “cautious” of encouraging a player to come out because they may suffer “significant abuse” from fans.

Speaking to BBC Radio 5 live yesterday, Clarke said he stood by his “personal view” that “vile abuse” from a “small minority on the terraces” must be solved before any gay footballers “take that risk” to come out.

“If they want to take that risk I would respect them and support them,” said Clarke. “But we can’t promise to provide them at the moment with the required protection. We need to redouble our efforts to provide that safe space.”Clarke added that he hoped to achieve that in a “year or two”.

In an online survey of more than 4,000 people commissioned by Afternoon Edition and carried out by ComRes, 71% of football fans said clubs should do more to educate fans about homophobia.

And 47% of all sports fans – 50% of football supporters – say they have heard homophobic abuse at matches.Former Premier League striker Chris Sutton told Afternoon Edition that Clarke had “taken the easy way out” by being “dictated to by 8% of cavemen”.

Sutton, who played for Norwich, Blackburn, Chelsea and Celtic, said: “Coming out wouldn’t be a problem in the workplace. Working at a football club is just like anywhere else. Players I played with wouldn’t bat an eyelid.

“This 8% shouldn’t be allowed in football grounds. By not taking it on, the 8% are the winners in all of this. Greg Clarke should be taking these people on.

“It’s bonkers in our society that people like this can dictate whether someone can come out or not.”Simone Pound, head of equality and diversity at the Professional Footballers’ Association, told BBC Sport the PFA and the FA were not “blaming any one particular group” for a lack of visibly out gay players.

“I have worked in the game for over 15 years and I have certainly seen a shift in the culture as well as greater understanding and acceptance of LGBT people,” she said.

“Coming out is a personal journey that is up to each and every individual. The PFA will continue our work tackling homophobia until someone does come out and thereafter.”

An FA spokesman said it “welcomed the statistics” as a “sense check” on homophobia. It said it takes “strong action” against anyone found guilty of “homophobic, biphobic or transphobic abuse”.

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