Stephen Chapman

The second incarnation of my blog

2014 – the year of a gay professional footballer

I wrote this blog posting yesterday (7th January) and was almost caught out by the news that Thomas Hitzlsperger has come out as gay.  The former German international retired last year. So anyway, here is my blog posting with no alterations…

I believe that this year will see a professional footballer come out as gay. We are at a tipping point in society and I think a brave man is going to make a move in 2014.

For those of you that listen to the excellent Radio 4 programme More or less, in 2012 they looked into the chances of a gay professional footballer or rather, the chances of there not being a gay footballer.  They considered the English league over the past 20 years using the low figure that 1.5% men are gay and 13,600 professional players had featured.  If you do the rough calculation, that would be 204 guys. If you take a stereotypical view that gay boys might not play football and reduce it by two-thirds, we’re still looking at 67 men. More or Less calculate that…

the chance of picking 13,600 men randomly from the whole population and none of those being gay is one chance in five times 10 to the power of 90.  Which looks like this:


It basically means that its virtually impossible for every player over the past 20 years to have been/to be straight.  Andrew also mentioned this on his blog some time ago.

Given that we know that there must be gay players and that the press is probably hunting them down in the vicious of ways that our press does (but press freedom is so important right?!), I would expect a player to want to control his coming out.

I am sure that there will be players who are out to their family and friends living a careful life.  I also imagine that there are players, especially in the lower leagues, that are probably out to the closer team mates.  It will be the Premiership player that will make the most headlines, though as we know, the first player to come out, Anton Hysen is from a lower league club in Sweden and has had plenty of press coverage.

In my experience, most gay men would prefer to be out, being honest with friends and family (and themselves) and able to live an open life without the usually lies, stress and upset.  So it figures that a professional footballer would also prefer to be out, but it’s obviously it is more complicated for someone in the public eye and especially for someone in the supposedly homophobic football community.

If a player did come out, how would the fans react? You can’t really use Anton Hysen as an example as the crowds are tiny for his games, although he says that the reaction from fans and fellow players has been completely positive.  It was a similar story with Robbie Rogers and although he retired when his announcement was made, he’s now playing again in the USA and no-one seems to care!  However, the truth is, we don’t know how fans will react. I imagine that the man would receive a great deal of terrace hassle, humour and probably hatred too. But it wouldn’t surprise me if the vast majority of home fans would defend and support him (just because he’s their player rather than them being pro-gay).  Fans tend to pick on the opposing players and will use anything they can from the colour of their hair to their name, so this could just be another reason to harass him verbally.

But what if coming out went badly wrong and destroyed his career?  Well, it’s certainly a risk being the first gay professional player in England, so I suspect any man that does the deed will be at the end of his playing career and able to take the risk.

I’ve said before that I think that we are at a tipping point when it comes to being gay and accepted by the most people.  Look at Tom Daley; he has made an incredibly brave decision and the reaction has been supportive. Coupled with changes in society, it is the social media revolution that will undoubtedly help to “out” a player before long. It could be the snooping press, but I think someone will use their camera phone to capture a moment and then it will be public knowledge.

Ultimately, the first Premier league player has an opportunity to make money just by being gay.  Anton Hysen has made money from coming out and enjoys his freebies from the fashion houses. Before, he was a footballer struggling to make a living (he did building work to pay his rent) and his life changed completely, appearing in magazines, on television (winning the Swedish version of Strictly) and modelling.  A Premiership footballer could command a lot of money for his story, appearances and take his post-footballing career anywhere he wants in theory.

So watch this space and I hope the guy that comes out does it for himself so that he doesn’t have to live a lie and is able to control when and how it happens.

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This entry was posted on January 8, 2014 by in coming out, gay and tagged , , .

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