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Britain's first openly gay referee gives his view on coming out in football


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A lot of people up and down the country find it difficult to open up about their sexuality to either their parents, friends or colleagues for fear of suffering discrimination. One brave referee has made headlines this week through his willingness to stand up for his sexual orientation.

In football in-particular, people are afraid of opening up because of a long history of Homophobia directed towards players from fans. In recent years, however, more footballers are opening up about their sexuality with former Aston Villa player Thomas Hitzelsperger stating he was openly gay whilst playing in the top flight of English football.

In 2012, the FA launched Opening Doors and Joining in which would address the boundaries which prevent the LGBT community from playing sport and also combat any homophobic, transphobic or bi-phobic behaviour from fans, players, coaches or other participants.

Ryan Atkin has recently opened up about his sexuality becoming football's first openly gay referee as he spoke to Sky Sports News on how acceptable homosexuality should be, and is, within the modern game. 

"I have been gay since 21 but actually accepting it is something quite difficult and especially within the world of football. I don't think people will start to give me more abuse because I am gay."

"People don't shout at you any louder because of your sexuality, they shout at you because they believe a decision is wrong or a decision hasn't gone their way. I do believe now is the time people stand up and be who they want to be"

Ryan Atkin makes a very good point about people coming forward and accepting who they are, football itself is a globally recognised game that particularly in recent years has started to address some of its most deep-rooted issues. The world of football does need to accept the LGBT community who want to be part of the game whether that will be players, officials, referees, fans or even those working on the turnstiles. Football is a community that has to become more inclusive and this is an important step. 

There are still issues though. A poll was taken in 2016 on BBC Radio 5 live asking fans whether they would accept an openly gay player and 82% of fans said they would have no problem but 8% of fans said they would stop watching altogether which presents a problem.

What Ryan has done though is shown the footballing and LGBT community that it's ok to express who you are individually and his words could prompt more gay people to be open and share their views in football, the wider sporting world, and beyond. 

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