In an extraordinary show of support, the English Football League, representing 72 English football clubs, has given its backing to the #ComeOut2Play campaign.
The campaign aims to help gay and bi footballers to come out if they want to with a message being shared by millions on social media, saying: “When a gay footballer comes out, I will support them. It doesn’t matter who they score with off the pitch.”
EFL Chief Executive, Shaun Harvey, said today: “We are proud of our work to date in this important area but we know that there is much more that can be done. The EFL is pleased to support the upcoming Come Out 2 Play initiative, in order to help raise awareness, whilst also promoting the values of the game and ensuring football provides everyone with a safe and welcoming environment.”
#ComeOut2Play leaders Andy West, Linda Riley and David Haigh met with EFL bosses last week to ask for support.
The EFL joins fellow high-profile supporters, including John Bishop, Piers Morgan, Sarah Brown, Denise Welch, Ollie Locke, Peter Tatchell, David Lammy MP, Alan Carr, Dr Ranj Singh and Val McDermid. So far the Thunderclap campaign has reached an incredible 25 million people
The initiative was co-launched by former MD of Leeds United Football Club David Haigh who has previously stated in national newspapers that he knows at least 20 professional players who are privately gay or bi’. He said: “Whilst managing director of Leeds United, we made great strides in promoting equality and in supporting gay players and staff on & off the pitch.
“Having spoken to many gay and bi players over the years, the reason for staying silent often appears to be one of fear. We need to remove that sense of fear in the footballer’s hearts when they consider coming out. We need them to know there is nothing to be fearful about.”
The campaign was also launched by broadcaster and Editor-at-Large of OutNews Global Andy West who said: “This support from the EFL is a huge mark of respect for the campaign and a statement of intent on the part of English football to make sure any player who chooses to come out is looked after and respected by the game and its fans.
“Nobody should come out if they aren’t ready to do so but I think it’s clearer now than ever, thanks to #ComeOut2Play, that a gay or bi player can be open about who they are without losing their career or suffering years of harassment.”
Publisher and LGBTQ lead advisor to the Labour party, Linda Riley said: “Nobody should feel unable to be who they are out of fear of ridicule or abuse. I offer my full backing to all those professional footballers who currently feel unable to come out and are torn between being true to themselves or silencing a small but vocal minority.”