The Premier League's first gay footballer

Australia Fans

There've been lots of articles written about how difficult it is for gay footballers to come out - especially when they are still playing. Can you imagine, for example, the stick an Arsenal player would get at White Hart Lane, or a Tottenham player at The Emirates ?

And let's not just pick on Arsenal and Tottenham fans, as there would doubtless be a small, but vocal, moronic element at most football league grounds who couldn't wait to be abusive to a rival team player who had revealed that he was gay.

In 1990 Justin Fashanu became the first (and so far only) professional footballer to publicly reveal that he was gay. It's didn't end well for Fashanu, who committed suicide in 1997, four years after he stopped playing. He found life after coming out very difficult, and the pressures sadly became too much for him.

And The Observer reported earlier this year that in January, Robbie Rogers, an American playing for Leeds United, left the club by 'mutual consent'. A month later he announced he was gay.

In a statement, Rogers, 25, said that remaining in British football after declaring that you were gay was 'impossible'.

The newspaper also reported at that time that at least eight professional footballers have revealed to colleagues that they are gay, but have refused to go public because they fear a backlash from fans.

Against this background, one can see why it would take a brave and highly self-assured individual to come out, especially if he was playing at a high-profile club, like Arsenal, Tottenham, Chelsea, Liverpool, or Manchesters City and United.

But commercially, the opportunities for any gay footballer coming out while still playing at the top would be huge. The fact is, the world outside of football has moved on, and evolved far more than many football fans appear to have.

Most outside of football would surely respect and admire the top professional footballer who chose to be the first in almost 25 years to reveal his sexual preferences. And, in our now more politically-correct world, the sponsorship opportunities, (reality and other) TV appearances and book deals would doubtless be very financially rewarding.

The problem here, though, is that it would be difficult to juggle a career in football with everything else. Sure, the likes of David Beckham managed to continue to play while taking advantage of numerous commercial opportunities (and build 'the brand'), but Beckham did so as a hetrosexual man, which surely must be a whole lot easier.

So, gay professional footballers these days don't just have to struggle with the fact that they are likely to suffer unmercifully at the hands of fans if they came out, but they also appreciate that the media spotlight and commercial opportunities that any 'outing' would bring would doubtless make it difficult to focus on the football - certainly in the manner required these days to play at the highest level in the Premier League.

In my view, therefore, it is more likely that today's gay professional footballers will come out after their playing days are over, and the smart ones will have the opportunity to make as much money from their sexuality as they did playing the beautiful game. And rightly so.

images: © Steenbergs, © doggiesrule04

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