Ryan Atkin has come out as the first openly professional gay referee in football in the UK.
The 32-year-old hoped that his coming out will help others in a sport which has notoriously no openly gay male players.
Speaking to Sky Sports he said: “Homophobia is still a problem, but things are improving all the time. You can change the game and culture when you change your mind.”
He hoped that others would be persuaded to be who they want to be and to accept people for who they are.
“Being gay doesn’t matter in the context of refereeing a football match,” he said, “ but if I’m speaking about equality and diversity, then I’m going to mention that I’m gay because it’s relevant.”
His decision to come out has been described as an “important moment” by Neale Barry, the Head of Senior Referee Development at the Football Association, who confirmed that Atkin had the full support of the FA.
Robbie de Santos, Head of Campaigns at gay rights charity Stonewall, said: “We’re so pleased Ryan feels able to be open about his sexuality.
“Ryan’s story underlines just how important it is that there are allies who are willing to stand up for LGBT inclusion in all levels of sport.
“He is an inspiring role model and his decision to come out will no doubt give others the confidence to be themselves in football.”