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OutNews Global’s #ComeOut2Play campaign only launched 24 hours ago and already it’s won support from some of the biggest names in the country.

John Bishop added the weight of his 3.7 million followers, tweeting: “This isn’t to force anyone to come out but it is a campaign to let them know that if they make that choice they will have support. It will be a brave step but the taboo needs to be broken.”

The biggest single supporter so far is Piers Morgan, the often controversial and professionally bullish TV presenter who gave his  6.24 million Twitter following to the cause. Always to the point, he simply replied to OutNews Editor-at-Large Andy west with the word “Done.”

Other supporters so far include novelist Val McDermid, presenter and politician John Nicolson and more than 200 other influencers.

The first openly gay professional football official in the UK, Ryan Atkin has signed up. He said: “Being involved in the professional football game as a referee, and hiding my sexuality for many years, was extremely hard and damaging.

Openly-gay professional referee Ryan Atkin joined the campaign today

He continued: “Within men’s football particularly, it’s still considered taboo by many to discuss homosexuality, while those involved in the sport often don’t feel comfortable speaking up and challenging homophobia.

“I truly believe that education and awareness is the catalyst – when you change your mind, you will change the game.”

The campaign is also being supported by official partners including Gay Times, Diva magazine, Sport Allies, G-A-Y, Pride In London, Just A Ball Game? and the Warwick Rowers whose calendars raise money for LGBT+ inclusion in sport.

Out News Global’s Andy West given a lift by the Warwick Rowers last month

The campaign was launched at 14:00hrs yesterday by broadcaster and OutNews editor-at-large Andy West and Diva publisher, Linda Riley alongside former MD of Leeds United FC, David Haigh.

David was openly gay as director of one of England’s oldest football clubs. 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.”

#ComeOut2Play’s David Haigh says footballers are frightened to come out

Meanwhile, Andy West said: “We should never pressure anyone to come out if they don’t want to but, as a journalist, I’ve recently come to realise that there are professional footballers in the UK who do want to come out but they think they’ll lose their careers if they do.

“That’s a problem but I believe the vast majority of football supporters, players, managers and owners will stand by any sporting hero who has the bravery and confidence to be open. It will happen and when it does, they’ll be an inspiration to millions.”

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.

“I hope that this campaign helps to create an environment where gay or bisexual footballers can be out and proud so that the overwhelming majority of true football fans can demonstrate their full support from the stands and beyond.”



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