At the very beginning of 2014, German soccer player Thomas Hitzlesperger came out as gay. Now, Liam Davis, Gainsborough Trinity midfielder, has also publicly spoken out about being a gay athlete.
This makes Davis the only publicaly out professional or semi-pro active player in England. But, he says, he knows he’s not alone:
Now, with football played so much from the top level down to non-league, there has to be more than one, statistics say that. So what that says to me there must be some who are not comfortable to come out.
At the age of 23 I like to think that I’ve got a good number of years left in the game and a lot of time to make a stand.
I personally hope that over the next 10 years I’m not the only gay footballer out there. Nobody wants to be forced out, but I hope they can look and see there is someone out there who has done it.
I hope we can get to a stage where it is not a bad thing, that there is no problem and people just get on with it.
Davis claims that his team has known about his sexuality since he signed on, and have acceped and supported him. He says it was actually one of his teammates who originally encouraged him to come out.
The goalkeeper Phil Barnes brought it up with me at the bar. I don’t know if it was a bit of Dutch courage that made me talk about it, but I think the way Phil asked helped as well. He did it in a jokey way which broke the ice and that was good.
I didn’t know if people knew. I had intended to just get on with playing football. There had been questions like, ‘have you got a girlfriend’, and I’d just say ‘no’, because it was the truth, so I had a suspicion that they might have an idea. Then it turned out they all knew from the first day I was at training.
That is the one thing I will say I really enjoy about playing for Gainsborough, is that it is a very close knit group of lads.
Aside from playing for the Lincolnshire Echoes, Davis operates and owns The Point Cafe and Bar with his partner.
And now, York City football (soccer) club (FC) is intending to host a game of “Football Against Homophobia” on Saturday February 22, 2014. The news was announced at the 2014 launch of York Pride, a charity which campaigns against inequality and promotes diversity and understanding for LGBT people.
Captain of the club, Chris Smith and fellow soccer player Josh Carson both attended the York Pride event, distributing one hundred tickets for the match to LGBT supporters.
York City is hoping to help eradicate homophobia, the “last and most stubborn taboo” in soccer.
The club’s communications director Sophie Hicks said she was “sad to say that last year our support for York Pride led to the club receiving some negative and abusive correspondence,” but added that the discord “only strengthens the club’s desire to support York Pride and be active in the fight against homophobia.”
They hope to see diversity training in every secondary school and college in York, to help young people come to terms with and feel open about their sexuality.
There is certainly a trend of sports stars coming out and showing support for the LGBT community. Recently, Olympic diver Tom Daley announced he was in a relationship with another man, whilst England women’s hockey captain Kate Walsh married her teammate Helen Richardson last September.
With these gestures of openness and sports teams fighting against homophobia on a more official capacity, it appears as if the world of sport could begin to shake its homophobic reputation.