Share

No better time for gay players to come out

Thomas Hitzlsperger

Ex-Aston Villa midfielder Thomas Hitzlsperger revealed he was gay after finishing playing in England

Ex-Premier League striker Chris Sutton says there has not been a better time for a footballer to come out as gay and says team-mates would be supportive.

Football Association chairman Greg Clarke told the Commons Select Committee on Monday he feared players would suffer “significant abuse”.

BBC football pundit Sutton “completely disagrees” and says Clarke’s comments create “another unintended obstacle”.

“Once the first gay footballer comes out, others will follow,” he said.

Speaking to the Daily Mail, Sutton, 43, added: “There has never been a better time for a footballer to come out and say ‘I am gay’.

“It will be the best thing that happens to the homophobia debate.”

The former Norwich, Blackburn and Celtic striker says he would think “good on you, but do I care?” should a top player be open about their homosexuality.

“I’m convinced 99.9% of people would share the same view, so are we now setting the levels based on how the 0.1% would react?” he said.

“Home fans would be supportive of a player, some away supporters wouldn’t.”

Sutton added that an offensive song is “one too many”, but questioned whether it was any worse than small groups of fans taunting each other about tragedies associated with their respective clubs.

Fromer Nottingham Forest striker 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.

From his own experience of professional football dressing rooms, Sutton believes any gay player would find “unwavering support” from their team-mates.

“Gentle teasing might be as far as it went,” he added. “Anything else would be bullying and team-mates would step in and stop it. That’s how it works.”

Take part in our new Premier League Predictor game, which allows you to create leagues with friends.

Subscribe to the BBC Sport newsletter to get our pick of news, features and video sent to your inbox.