FA chairman Clarke’s homophobia views ‘old-fashioned’

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5 live polled more than 4,000 people into attitudes about homophobia in sport

Football Association chairman Greg Clarke’s views on gay footballers coming out are “negative and old-fashioned”, says Britain’s first openly gay rugby league player Keegan Hirst.

Clarke said he “wouldn’t recommend” a player coming out “at the moment”.

He added they would be “taking a risk” of “vile abuse” and could not yet be offered the “required protection”.

A BBC Radio 5 live survey found 8% of football fans would stop watching their team if they signed a gay player.

Clarke told 5 live on Wednesday he stood by his “personal view” that abuse from a “small minority on the terraces” must be solved before any gay footballers come out.

He said the FA needs to “redouble its efforts to provide that safe space”, which he hoped to achieve in a “year or two”.

But Hirst told the BBC: “What he said was that he didn’t think it was the right time for a footballer to come out, which begs the question: when is the right time?

“Eventually someone is going to take the plunge and I think there are lots of things in place for footballers to get the support they need from the club, supporters’ bodies and social media.

“So what he is saying is pretty negative and a bit old-fashioned.

“Maybe if he got out on terraces a bit more and saw what was really going on, he wouldn’t make comments like that. “

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Last week Clarke told MPs he was “cautious” of encouraging a player to come out because they may suffer “significant abuse” from fans.

He said he was “personally ashamed” that players do not feel safe to come out.

In an online survey of more than 4,000 people commissioned by 5 live’s Afternoon Edition and carried out by ComRes, 82% of sports fans said they would have no issue with a gay player playing for their club.

And 47% of all sports fans – 50% of football supporters – say they have heard homophobic abuse at matches, while 71% of football fans said clubs should do more to educate fans about homophobia.

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.


Greg Clarke was questioned by members of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee last week

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