In a somewhat surprising report, an overwhelming number of sports fans in the UK say they don’t mind if sports stars are gay.
According to a new BBC Radio 5 Live Homophobia in Sports survey of more than 4,000 people, four in five fans (82%) revealed they would be comfortable if their favourite sports club signed a new player who was gay.
A small but extreme element (8%), however, stated that they would be so offended by a gay player being included that they would stop watching their team play.
Half of football fans in the poll said they’d heard homophobic abuse at matches, while 71% agreed that clubs should be more active in educating fans about homophobia.
Sport remains a largely closeted field, with only a handful of players in professional teams sports such as rugby and football having come out.
The poll results followed comments made by Football Association chairman Greg Clarke, who last week told British MPs that he understood why closeted gay players were unwilling to be open about their sexuality.
“There are a very small minority of people who hurl vile abuse at people who they perceive are different,” he said. “If I was a gay man, why would I expose myself to that?”
Clarke has admitted that more needs to be done. “I would be amazed if we haven’t got gay players in the Premier League. But before we encourage people to come out we must provide the safe space where they have the expectation to play or watch football and not get abused.”
While in countries like Australia, New Zealand and the UK there are active anti-homophobia programmes, led by or with the participation of sporting authorities, there are no such initiatives in South African sports.