An open letter from LGBTQ+ people and allies in football

Published by Jon Holmes on

Over 200 individuals and 100+ organisations connected to LGBTQ+ inclusion in football respond to recent media coverage about gay and bi male professional footballers…

This letter was first published on Monday 21 September, 2020.

Dear friends,

Football stories are part of the fabric of our global game. We recall memories of our greatest goals, the team-mates we played with, the fellow fans we cheered alongside, the victories and the defeats.

Some stories are harder to share – they are deeply personal, perhaps complicated, related to experiences that are talked about much less often in sport. Holding on to these in secret can be a heavy burden, impacting upon a person’s mental wellbeing, as well as that of their friends and family.

Since May, a series of reports in sections of the national media have reminded the public of this…

On Monday, another article in this series has been published in a tabloid newspaper…

Article on page 9 of The Sun, 21 September 2020

As a group of LGBTQ+ people and allies with roles in football, we know there are moments when the game can be unwelcoming for members of our community. The culture of the men’s professional set-up can make it a particularly challenging environment for anyone who is gay or bi – the pressure on players from academy level to first team, the sense of needing to conform to progress, and the intense interest from fans and the media, are just some of the influences that might cause a footballer to struggle.

Understanding this only increases our respect for gay and bi male players, and the reasons why the majority decide to keep that part of who they are private, even after hanging up their boots. Some confide in close friends and team-mates, but still wrestle with the question of whether to come out publicly.

Yet these narratives are not owned solely by hidden figures, anonymous individuals, or silhouettes in tabloid newspapers. There are stories too of visible, active players, match officials, and managers who are providing representation, such as…

In addition, ex-Premier League star Thomas Hitzlsperger continues to work in football as Stuttgart’s sporting director, while former players Robbie Rogers, Thomas Beattie and Anton Hysén have also spoken about the benefits of being their authentic selves.

Media coverage has extended the reach of their stories, helping to give confidence to those who need it and sometimes convincing other sportspeople to be more open too. The focus on each of the individuals named above may not compare to what a current gay or bi Premier League, EFL or even National League player might encounter when coming out. However, the feelings that brings – of a weight being lifted, a lightening of spirits – is universal.

Further reassurances of the positive reception that awaits can be found in the commitments made to LGBT+ inclusion by the PFA and its Equalities team; the messages sent out by the Premier League, EFL and their member clubs through their shared backing of Stonewall’s Rainbow Laces message; the activity of Player Care and inclusion teams working within clubs; the extensive education work carried out by Kick It Out, Football v Homophobia, and other organisations and campaigns; and the Football Association’s support with its ‘In Pursuit of Progress’ equality plan, its partnership with the Heads Together mental health campaign, and the awareness it raises during both LGBT+ History Month and Pride season.

As tangible as these actions are, the football authorities have the capacity to do more – such as addressing LGBTQ+ mental wellbeing specifically, and the challenges faced by closeted gay and bi male players; and delivering education for all stakeholders around how homophobic, biphobic and transphobic language and behaviour can make people feel unwelcome and unsafe. We acknowledge that the FA has recently introduced stricter charging policies and sanctioning guidelines for discriminatory chanting in the domestic game. We urge UEFA and FIFA, with their respective #EqualGame and Fair Play campaigns, to set an example at the highest levels of the game for member associations to follow and to be bolder in their visible support for LGBT+ inclusion.

This is our open letter; we sign it as individuals with diverse roles in football, and on behalf of the organisations we represent. If we are to help LGBTQ+ people in our sport who are struggling to arrive at their own sense of Pride, while also avoid fuelling speculation about who is and isn’t gay or bi, then greater transparency and a more constructive approach is required from the game’s critics. Sensationalised accounts in the media of agony and anguish give the perception that complacency has set in on homophobia in football. The truth is that there has never been a more concerted team effort to tackle prejudice, but its progress is hampered by such accounts and makes gay and bi people across the men’s game feel less safe and less likely to feel they can be honest and open about their identity.

Hitzlsperger told ARD Radio in Germany last year that the game will struggle to move on if the LGBT+ people within it are perpetually warned off or advised to hold back. “Don’t always play on people’s fears and tell them the bad things that could happen – that’s exactly the wrong signal to send out,” he said. We offer this letter collectively, as a beacon of hope; together, we form a strong support network of shared experience and allyship.

Our goal is to inspire all the storytellers like us who are out there to have a little faith in football.

Signed by

Azeem Ahmed, United With Pride
Nicole Allison, Founder, NA Sport
Paul Amann, Founder, Kop Outs
Carole Anderson, Ibrox Pride
Anita Asante
Ryan Atkin, referee
Apna Albion (West Bromwich Albion FC supporters group)
Carl Austin-Behan, LGBTQ+ Advisor to the Mayor of Greater Manchester
Harley Bagnall-Taylor
Alexander Baker, Chair, Stonewall FC
James Baker, Stonewall FC
Chris Basiurski, former chair, GFSN
Neil Basterfield, Proud Baggies
Frank Beattie, CUOSC (Carlisle United Supporters Trust)
Thomas Beattie, Ovvy App
Hayley Bennett, Co-Founder, Nutmegs
Mark Betham
Sanjay Bhandari, Kick It Out
Black and Azul Podcast
Howard Borrington, Pride With MBDA
Liam Bowering
Craig Bratt, Media Officer, Exeter City FC
Liam Braisdell, St Martin’s FC
Sarah Breslin, Villa & Proud
Staynton Brown
Tracy Brown, Co-Chair of Chelsea Pride
Nigel Bryson Davidson, Vice-Chair, CUOSC
Mark Bullingham, CEO, The FA Group
David Byrne, Chair, Rover&Out!
Richard Cann, LGBT Sport Cymru
James Cardall, President, Pride Football Australia
Tom Carr, Founder, Argyle Pride
Vicki Carter, Co-Chair, Out For Sport
JP Casey
Rhys Chapman, Director, WONDERKID
Andrew Charles, ProudSwans
Nilesh J Chauhan, Villans Together
Lucy Clark, Trans Radio UK; TRUK Listens
Sam Clarke, Comms Officer, FvH Youth Panel
Louise Clarke, Founder, Proud Cherries
Simon Clarkson, Carlisle United Supporters Groups
Ben Cohen
Cristian Colas
Mike Conlon, Cork Rebels FC
Edward Connell
Terry Connolly, Chair, London Titans FC
Sophie Cook, Manager, Rainbow Rovers / Equality & Diversity Officer, Whitehawk FC
Daniel Cookes
Tom Cowley, Social Media Officer, Villa & Proud
Anthony Crocker, Chair, InterMedia UK
Nina Crombie
Daniel Crump, Charlton Invicta FC
Di Cunningham, Proud Canaries and Proud Canaries FC
Michelle Daltry, LGBT+ Sport Cymru
Josh Day, London Titans FC
Robbie de Santos, Head of Communications and Campaigns, Stonewall
Chris Devine
Mark Doidge, Whitehawk FC
Jim Dolan, Pride of Irons
Paul Elliott CBE
Martin Endemann, Football Supporters Europe
Lou Englefield, Pride Sports / Football v Homophobia
Joanie Evans, Co-President, Federation of Gay Games
Abbie Fairbairn
Jamie Feldman
Beth Fisher
Aaron Flanagan
Andy Garden
Luke Gardener
Darin Gardiner, freelance TV producer
Kevin George, LGBT Trickies
Chris Gibbons, Director of Inside Inclusion
Gary Ginnaw, Player Manager, Charlton Invicta FC
Dario Giovannelli, Executive Director – Legal Services, International Tennis Federation
Nikki Girvan, Director, Auteur Media Ltd
Garry Greenaway, Birmingham Blaze FC
Steven Grocock, LGBT+ Pies
Jacob Hardwick
Rob Harris, Chair, Proud Valiants
Andrew Harrison, Marching Out Together
Max Harvey, LGBT+ Sport Cymru
Jim Hearson, London Titans FC
Nick Heath, Ambassador, Harlequins Foundation
Andrew Henderson, Pride of the Terraces
Pippa Henry
Andi Herring, Interim CEO, LCR Pride Foundation
Matt Hill, Co-Chair, Out For Sport
Malcolm Hirst, Love Football Hate Racism
Joanna Hoffman, Director of Communications, Athlete Ally
Jon Holmes, Sports Media LGBT+
Mike Homfray, Rainbow Toffees
Sam Hopkins, Birmingham Blaze FC
Ross Hunter
Lee Hurley, Daily Cannon
Adrian Hyyrylainen-Trett, Sports Media LGBT+
Kristopher Irwin, The PFA
Ollie James-Parr, Logistics & Social Officer, London Titans FC
Jamie Jaxon
Lee Johnson, Proud Lilywhites
Mark Johnson, Rainbow Devils
Esther Jones Russell, Head of Policy: Social Inclusion at Fare Network; Co-Chair, The Festival of Football
Edward Kandel, Co-Founder, LGBTQ+ In Sport
Lucy Keeling
Nancy Kelley, Chief Executive, Stonewall
Jellina Keulen, Project Support Officer, Show Racism The Red Card
Danyal Khan, University of Gloucestershire
Cameron Kirton
Paul Kirton, Grassroots Football UK
Will Knight, United With Pride
LaGolda and Sound of Gol
James Laley, Founder and Chair, Rainbow Blades; Organiser, Sheffield Rainbow Laces
Ivan Lara, ANADE LGBT+
Marc Leckie, CEO, Harlequins Foundation
Laura Lee, Head of Diversity & Inclusion, World After Sport
Jehmeil Lemonius
Carl Lerigo, Manager, Leftfooters FC
Amazin LeThi
John Lochland, Director, JL2 Productions
Jamie Lockey
Cllr Rishi Madlani, Pride in Football
Rory Magrath, Associate Professor of Equality and Diversity, Solent University
John Maher, Birmingham Blaze FC
Angus Malcolm, Chair, Sport Allies; Founder, Worldwide Roar
Paul Malley, Treasurer, Foxes Pride
Ryan Mather, Proud Terriers
Stuart Matthews, Founder and Chair, Proud Seagulls
Adam McCabe
Andrew McKay
Callum McKay, Events Officer, Rainbow Blades
Craig McKissock
Greg McLean, Business Support Manager, Cheshire County FA
James McNaught, Chair, Village Manchester FC
Andrew McNee, Canal Street Blues
Nicky Metcalfe, Chair of Turfed Out
Kevin Miles
Adam Miller
Emma Miller-McCaffrey, Founder of QPR Rainbow Rangers
David Mooney, Blue Moon Podcast
Chloe Morgan
Matt Morton, Manager, Thetford Town FC
Connor Moseley, Balls The Podcast
Ben Moutter, Birmingham Blaze FC
Roisin Murray, Editor / Presenter, Gaydio
Eric Najib, Rainbow Devils; Stonewall FC
Mogi Natsagdorj, Proud Lilywhites
Kelly Neilson, Proud Hornets
Stuart Neilson, Co-Founder, Proud Hornets
Carl Nunnerley, Rainbow Devils
Katie O’Brien, Rainbow Devils
Paul O’Regan, Treasurer, London Titans FC
Chris Paouros, Proud Lilywhites – Tottenham Hotspur LGBTQ+ Supporters Association; Kick It Out
Bhavisha Patel, Proud Valiants
Shiv Paul, Federation of Gay Games
Ian Pearson-Brown, United With Pride
Juliette Pedram, Project Support Officer, Show Racism The Red Card
Simone Pound, The PFA
Piara Powar, Fare Network
Richard Prescott, Cardiff Dragons FC
Theo Price, Birmingham Blaze FC
Richie Pugh, The Coolgang Foxtrots
Tim Purcell, Tim Purcell Associates
Alan Quick, Co-Ordinator, Proud Grecians
Peter Quinn, Proud Hornets
Claire Rafferty, Commercial Manager, Chelsea FC
Jaime Randall, Club Secretary, AFC Muswell Hill
Naomi Reid
Callum Richardson, Heart of the Holte
Lee Rotherham, CUOSC
Kevin Rowe, Villa & Proud; HotScots FC
Hubert Rovers, Project Co-ordinator, Show Racism The Red Card Europe
Maria Ryder
Debbie Saddington, United With Pride
Saint Anthony’s FC
Hugo Scheckter
Brian Silk, London Unity League
Connor Shine, Volunteer, Teach Solais Tribes FC
Aaron Sholl
Jason Sholl, President and CEO, ProReferee
Bikramjit Singh, Blues4All
Ashley Slaughter
David Smith
Emma Smith
Graeme Smith, Chair of Foxes Pride
Thomas Smith
Verity Smith, Mermaids UK
Marvin Sordell, Co-Founder, Oneighty Productions
Kyle Sproat
Jack Spruce
Phil Steer, Manager, London Titans FC
Joe Stephenson, CUOSC
Dr Ryan Storr, Proud 2 Play (Australia)
Darren Styles OBE, Managing Director, Attitude Magazine
Mike Symmonds
Darryl Telles
Beatrice Thirkettle, Pride Sports / Football v Homophobia
Daniel Thomas
Samuel Timms, Villa & Proud
Hugh Torrance, Executive Director, LEAP Sports Scotland
Sarah Townsend, General Secretary, EGLSF
Troy Townsend
Luke Tuffs, 1st Team Manager, Ashford Town Mx FC
Jordan Tyms, Head of Inclusion at Altrincham FC
Liron Velleman, Fans for Diversity Guidance Group
Zoë Vicarage, spokesperson, West Ham United Women Supporters Group
Malou Micola von Fürstenrecht, United Glasgow FC
Sammy Walker
Steve Wardlaw, Chairman, Emerald Life
Carol Ward, Foxes Pride
Natalie Washington
Ben Watkiss, First Team Sport Scientist, Burton Albion FC
Jason Webber, Equality, Diversity, Inclusion & Integrity Manager, Football Association of Wales
Joe White, Arsenal GayGooners
John Whitney
Ali Wightman, Rainbow Devils
David Williams
Leon Williams, Secretary, Stonewall FC
Charles Wollin, Commentator and Broadcaster, Oakland Roots SC and San Francisco City FC
Alastair Woodcock, Secretary, CUOSC
Hannah Wright, Founder and Chair, The Festival of Football
Emma Wright, Proud and Palace
Cyd Zeigler
Piero Zizzi, Founder and Chair of Proud Baggies; director, Brightspot International

Thank you too all who signed this open letter. If you are interested in this initiative and would like further information, please email

Sports-specific information and support for people from LGBTQ+ communities and their allies is available from:


Pride Sports

LEAP Sports Scotland

LGBT+ Sport Cymru


Sports Media LGBT+ is a network, advocacy and consultancy group that is helping to build a community of LGBT+ people and allies in sport. We’re here to help. Learn more about us on our About page; to get in touch, Contact Us here.

Further reading…

Seeing the light: The media and gay footballers

Football Pride Replay! Catch up on the festival

Stories can give strength to gay and bi footballers

Jon Holmes

Digital Sports Editor

1 Comment

Another top-tier soccer player says he’s too scared to come out · 22/09/2020 at 9:59 am

[…] response to news of the closeted player, Sports Media LGBT+ published an open letter from 100 individuals and 60+ sports-related […]

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