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Huge effort from FA and Police required for gay players to be protected | Damien Delaney

Jake O'Donnell
Jake O'Donnell

03:20 28 Nov 2019

With the annual Rainbow Laces campaign kicking off in English football this month, Damien Delaney discussed why the Premier League has no openly gay player and how one could be protected if they did come out.

Currently, former Aston Villa and Everton midfielder Thomas Hitzelsperger is the only openly gay player to have played in the Premier League but came out only after retiring in 2014.

Speaking about the LGBT visibility campaign, Delaney said he wanted to see a Premier League player come out and break any remaining taboo, but warned there could still be issues with a small minority of players in the dressing room.

"I know one player who said he wouldn't interact with a [gay] player," the former Ireland international revealed on Wednesday's show.

"I believe there could be an issue because there are a lot of very religious players in football. Fans are another issue because they sing an awful lot of these songs and I think probably a lot people just don't want to go through it."

"Someone's got to do it eventually and someone's going to be the person to do it."

With rugby recently suffering the problem of high-profile players expressing homophobic views under the guise of religious beliefs, Delaney argued that it's not an issue that football is immune from.

"I think football players the vast, vast, vast majority of them are going to be okay with it.

"I think if a player of a certain belief didn't respect a [gay] player then I think that player would be shunned in the dressing room, I really do.

"If you have a strong dressing room, you say, 'listen you're the odd one out here. It's 2019, that's your religious belief. That gets left at the gate when you come to training so you leave that there and you put the team first'."

If a player was to come out today it would take a huge effort from all the game's stakeholders to ensure they are properly protected and respected, Delaney said.

"My belief is that if a player did have the courage to come out, I believe there would have to be a huge effort on the part of the FA, the stewarding and the policing during a game.

"You would put on extra policing, extra stewarding and you say, 'listen if anyone sings anything it's stomped out straight away. This does not take root here.'

"And if fans start singing songs like that they are out, gone and they get banned from grounds. I think it's going to take that much effort for a gay player to come out.

"It's going to take a very very strong character, a very established player and I think it needs to happen," Delaney added.


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