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“Many don’t want to be the first and I think therein lies the problem of out gay footballers in a nutshell.”

The #ComeOut2Play campaign has received support from political figures such as Labour shadow minister Dawn Butler, David Lammy MP and Sarah Brown and celebrities including John Bishop, Alan Carr, Katie Price, Piers Morgan and today Britain’s Got Talent’s Paul Manners and yet, there’s an elephant in the room.

In spight of support from the English Football League and footballing figures including openly-gay professional referee Ryan Atkin, we’re still waiting for a professional footballer to sign up as a straight ally. The question is: who will be the first?

Labour Shadow Minister Dawn Butler today supported the campaign

Perhaps the absence of a footballer’s name on the ever-lengthening list of supporters is a small hint at why, in part, gay and bi footballers might be nervous about coming out.

The campaign has been talking privately to footballers both LGBT and straight and there is a genuine will to show support but it’s clear people in the game are nervous about speaking out.

The campaign’s David Haigh, who was MD of Leeds United FC in 2013 understands as well as anyone how difficult it is. He said: “The campaign has already proven to be fantastically successful over the last few weeks with endorsement from the English Football League and Middlesbrough Football Club but it’s fair to say one group is still lacking: professional footballers.

“They’re telling us they would sign up to the campaign but they’d rather wait for someone else to take the step first.

“Many don’t want to be the first and I think therein lies the problem of out gay footballers in a nutshell.”

Andy West, Linda Riley and David Haigh at the EFL HQ

The campaign has also been liked on social media by Amal Fashanu, daughter of John Fashanu and niece of Justin Fashanu, the only Premier League player to have come out in the English game.

Justin Fashanu was also the first black footballer paid £1 million for transfer

Tragically, Justin took his own life aged 37 in 1998, following sexual assault allegations in the United States. It was eight years after facing extreme pressure following the revelation he was gay at a time of little understanding and compassion for LGBT sportspeople and the gay community in general.

The #ComeOut2Play campaign now has an incredible 29.5 million social media reach, meaning tens of millions of people will see the campaign’s message when it launches later this month.

The message will trend on Twitter: ““When a gay footballer comes out I’ll support them. It doesn’t matter who they score with off the pitch #ComeOut2Play

Sign up to the campaign here now to show your support!

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