Village Manchester FC

Manchester LGBT fans ‘cautiously optimistic’ after professional footballer comes out as gay

  • It's been more than 30 years since a player came out publicly in England
  • Fan from Manchester United's LGBT supporters club hopes this will give Premier League players the courage to come out
  • Village Manchester FC chair: 'It would be easier to come out now than in any other point in history'

LGBT football fans in Manchester say they are ‘cautiously optimistic’ after the first top-flight footballer in 30 years came out as gay.

Josh Cavallo, who plays for Adelaide United in Australia, last week came out as the only openly gay footballer in the men’s game, leading to an outpouring of support from the footballing community including both Manchester clubs. 

Howard Borrington, member of the official Manchester United LGBT supporters club Rainbow Devils, said: “It was great to see players like Varane and Lingard as well as the club put out messages of total support. 

“Let’s hope this is a watershed moment in giving professional footballers in our country more courage to come out and be themselves because we know there will be gay footballers in the premier league.” 

James Cole, chair of Village Manchester FC, one of the world’s largest LGBT+ football clubs, said: “I don’t think it will be long because there’s undoubtedly gay players out there who know what a difference it would have made to them as a kid to see a gay player in the premier league.” 

The Sun reported earlier this year that an unnamed gay premier league footballer is undergoing therapy because he is scared of coming out. 

He said: “There are fans out on the terraces for whom it is still very much the 1980s.” 

In 1990 Justin Fashanu came out and became the only openly gay player in the history of English men’s football.

Since then, Cavallo is the only male player in the world of top flight football to come out publicly whilst still playing the sport. 

Justin Fashanu came out to The Sun newspaper in 1990 Image: Getty Images
Justin Fashanu came out to The Sun newspaper in 1990 Image: Getty Images

Howard describes the treatment of Fashanu by the press and fans as ‘awful’, saying: “Thank goodness society has moved on.”  

But he said equality has not yet been reached: “There’s still homophobic attacks going on in public like the one recently in Birmingham.” 

Latest Home Office statistics reveal reported hate crimes motivated by sexual orientation have more than doubled in the last five years. 

James is ‘cautiously optimistic’ that the media will be more responsible if a premier league player came out in 2021.

“There is a toxic environment created by the tabloid press where if you are a footballer who was gay, I don’t think you’d want to come out,”  he said.

“But the media know they can’t gay bash any more. I think it would be easier for a player to come out now than at any other point in history.

“I envy the younger kids who are joining our club and have been out since their teens. When I was at school in the late 90s I wouldn’t have dared come out.” 

Speaking to BBC Breakfast, Cavallo said: “I want to tell my story to the younger generation and be a role model – something I didn’t have.”