8 out of 10 Brit footie fans say they would back gay players who come out

August 8th, 2010 - 4:11 pm ICT by ANI  

London, Aug 8 (ANI): Eight out of ten football fans believe openly gay players would have the same positive effect on football as black players did in the 1980s and 90s when racism in the sport was tackled, according to a British survey.

Almost a quarter of all people playing, coaching or refereeing professional football personally know a gay player, according to new research into attitudes towards homosexuality in the game.

The findings are likely to raise expectations that football will soon follow other professional sports and see a top player come out.

In recent years, rugby union, hurling and tennis have seen star players reveal that they are gay while at the height of their careers.

But the survey, conducted by the University of Staffordshire, suggested such a move for a professional footballer would not be without risks.

Of the professional players, coaches, managers and referees who know gay footballers currently playing the game, one third believe they would face abuse from other players if they came out.

Almost four out of five think they would face hostility from fans.

Max Clifford, who is rumoured to have been consulted by at least three gay professional footballers, has revealed that he has advised footballers not to come out because the sport is “steeped in homophobia”.

But just under 10 percent of fans questioned in the survey expressed hostility to homosexuality and resented any liberalisation in attitudes towards gay players witnessed in other sports.

Ellis Cashmore, professor of culture, media and sport at the University of Staffordshire, who conducted the survey of 3,000 people, said for most fans the only thing that counted was a player’s performance on the pitch.

“One fan told us: ‘I’d rather have a gay player who can play than a straight one who can’t.’ And this is a typical view, not just from supporters but from everyone associated with football,” the Guardian quoted him as saying.

Of those football fans questioned in the research, more than 52 percent believe the greatest cause for a change in attitudes in the game would be a Gareth Thomas-type player coming out.

A campaign backed by leading players was also considered by almost 31 percent to be influential.

Two-thirds believed at least one professional footballer would announce he is gay in the next five years. (ANI)

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