Yesterday, we discussed the comments from FA Chairman Greg Clarke, who said that an openly gay footballer would face “significant abuse”. Today, we have some comments on the contrary from ex-Premiere League striker Chris Sutton.
Sutton said that he “completely disagrees” and even said that Clarke’s comments create “another unintended obstacle”.
“Once the first gay footballer comes out, others will follow,” he said.
When writing for the Daily Mail, Sutton said: “There has never been a better time for a footballer to come out and say: ‘I am gay.’ I completely disagree with Greg Clarke’s comments to the governance of football inquiry. The FA chairman said he ‘loathes’ and ‘feels ashamed’ that football has not created the ‘safe space’ — but when is that likely to happen? Five years? Ten years?”
“He says there would be ‘significant abuse’, but is that true? We cannot use Twitter as a barometer of how people will react. Mr Clarke’s comments to MPs were intended to show that football is taking homophobia seriously, but he may have created another unintended obstacle with the message: ‘We are not ready yet.’ Why not?”
“A football club dressing room can be a brutal environment, with team-mates always seeking a chink in the armour, but there is no dressing room that I played in — at Norwich, Blackburn, Chelsea, Celtic, Birmingham or Aston Villa — that would react with anything other than support.”
“The famed dressing room banter is usually tailored to the individual, too. If a team-mate is an introvert, he is unlikely to bear the brunt of the ribbing. It would be the same if a player was gay. Gentle teasing might be as far as it went. Anything else would be bullying and team-mates would step in and stop it. That’s how it works.”
“Supporters, especially rival supporters, are different, I know. And this is what Mr Clarke’s comments were aimed at, cleaning up football grounds. But there are crass, naive, nasty people in all walks of life. It doesn’t stop young people in a school — or any workplace — from coming out, so why does football insist on putting itself on a pedestal? Does anyone bat an eyelid when someone from music or entertainment comes out?”
It’s certainly interesting to get a perspective from a former player, and certainly paints a very different picture than the dire straits that Greg Clarke described. If Sutton is correct, then it may be possible that Clarke’s comments were damaging, but hopefully this alternate point of view will undo that.