Thomas Beattie: ‘Element of risk’ for players coming out, says ex-footballer

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Coming out as gay “adds an element of risk” to players’ careers, says the first UK-born male professional footballer to come out since Justin Fashanu more than 30 years ago.

Former Hull City youth player Thomas Beattie, who spent his career in Canada and Singapore, came out this week.

The 33-year-old says he feels “quite liberated” but sexual orientation is an issue sport still needs to address.

“We’re still at a point where this has not really moved too much,” he said.

“There’s so much that needs to be improved within sport in terms of diversity and equality and acceptance.”

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme, he added: “I definitely wouldn’t urge anyone to do it, in all honesty, and the reason I say that is because I think it needs to be on your own time.

“As one of the first few trailblazers in that kind of industry, you’re going have to go through a lot of fire.

“To do that you need to be fully confident, you know, ‘I’m gay, I’m playing professional sport’.”

Former Norwich and Nottingham Forest striker Fashanu was the first male English professional to come out as gay while still playing in 1990. He took his own life in 1998.

Watford captain Troy Deeney told the Grounded with Louis Theroux podcast recently that once one player comes out “there will be loads”, adding there is “probably one gay or bi person in every football team”.

Beattie says he agrees to some extent, and that if a footballer playing at a good level came out as gay it “might give a lot of confidence to other people”.

“Then again, football’s very volatile,” he added. “I think with players’ careers, being quite short, it adds an element of risk.”

Simone Pound, Head of Equality and Diversity at the Professional Footballers Association, says Beattie is a “pioneer in the game”.

Pound added it is important to make the game “as inclusive as it can be for anyone who is gay who wants to come out, or who is gay and out within their dressing room”.

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