As part of his remit as FA Chairman, Greg Clarke is making a concerted effort to break one of football’s last lingering taboos: the acceptance of openly gay players.
After consulting with gay sportspeople to garner opinion on the matter, Clarke has suggested that perhaps players should come out as a group in an attempt to mete out the attention they would inevitably receive from all and sundry.
Speaking in an interview with The Times, Clarke said:
I put the message out there that if a number of top-level pros want to come out, why don’t we synchronise it? So one person doesn’t have to come out on their own.
The Premier League, the Football League and the FA could do it at the start of the season.
At the start of the season everybody thinks it is their season, the crowds are happy, the sun is shining.
Unveil the new gays at the start of the season. Make a big song and dance about it. What a good idea.
When asked a few months ago, Clarke actually posited that he “wouldn’t recommend” a player come out in the current climate.
However, it would appear that he is working as hard as he can to create the right conditions to facilitate it.
There was a survey which said people would support gay people in their own team, yes, but I’m worried about what they said about gay people in the other team, not that they would do bad things, but I said we should prepare well.
I’ve been asking the gay community, ‘How can we provide more support and orchestrate it so that people get the right level of support if people want to be open about their sexuality?’.
I’ve met 15 gay sports people in the last four weeks to ask their views, including footballers.
It is very difficult to get to a representative set of gay top-level footballers because some of them are happy with their sexuality and just don’t want anyone to know. I don’t want to be part of a process that says, ‘You’ve got to come out’.
That’s not right. People are cautious. It’s a one-way street. Once you’re out of the closet, you’re out.
As Pies have said countless times before, nobody – in any walk of public or professional life – should feel pressured or coerced to be openly anything.
As we’ve seen with attitudes towards racism in football, the slow quelling of abuse can be a generational thing. It takes time for tolerance – however begrudging for some parties – to become the accepted norm.
The disconnect between football and the rest of society becomes more ludicrous with every passing year and, as such, we increasingly feel that it will take one incredibly brave high-profile individual (or perhaps a group thereof) to bear that enormous burden and topple the first domino.
If that’s too big an ask, then so be it.