Former Chelsea footballer Chris Sutton has criticised the head of the FA for suggesting an openly gay player would face abuse. Former Leeds United player Robbie Rogers and former Aston Villa player Thomas Hitzlsperger have both come out as gay, but their career was already over by that time.
In a column for the Daily Mail, former Chelsea player Chris Sutton said the claim did nothing to help gay footballers with their coming out: “There has never been a better time for a footballer to come out and say: ‘I am gay.’ I completely disagree with Greg Clarke’s comments to the governance of football inquiry. The FA chairman said he ‘loathes’ and ‘feels ashamed’ that football has not created the ‘safe space’ — but when is that likely to happen? Five years? Ten years? He says there would be ‘significant abuse’, but is that true? We cannot use Twitter as a barometer of how people will react. Mr Clarke’s comments to MPs were intended to show that football is taking homophobia seriously, but he may have created another unintended obstacle with the message: ‘We are not ready yet.’ Why not?”
“A football club dressing room can be a brutal environment, with team-mates always seeking a chink in the armour, but there is no dressing room that I played in — at Norwich, Blackburn, Chelsea, Celtic, Birmingham or Aston Villa — that would react with anything other than support. I’m convinced that once the first gay footballer comes out, others will follow. It will be the best thing that happens to the homophobia debate.”