We are working hard to create an environment within the game so that a professional player can feel comfortable to be open about their sexuality whilst still playing football.
In the last decade only two players who have played in the English Leagues have come out, both only once they had stopped playing. Robbie Rogers (previously of Leeds United) and Thomas Hitlzberger (previously of Aston Villa, West Ham and Everton).
The PFA have been working with both players to ensure we have a support network in place when and if another footballer comes out.
Both Robbie and Thomas spoke of the over-whelming support that they got from across the world following their decisions to come out and we applaud them as pioneers. We are pleased that Robbie Rogers subsequently felt that he continue in the game and now plays for LA Galaxy in the MLS.
Everyone has the right to be themselves and as the players union we are at the forefront of creating a climate of acceptance for LGBT players.
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PFA Support Policy
The PFA recognises that to publicly come out as gay would be a life-changing decision for any current player.
We are here to offer our full support to any member who may be considering making this decision and have outlined a framework of how we can assist.
Any assistance will be player-led, and all advice will be tailored to the preferences and needs of the individual.
We understand that coming out is an intensely personal process and that the reasons behind the decision will be unique to that person.
While we acknowledge that a one-size-fits-all approach won’t work for everyone, we have created a Player Support Policy which helps to provide a brief overview of the type of support the Association can offer.
- Assessing levels of support. Irrespective of being a footballer, coming out as being gay can be a significant life event for any individual. Support from family and friends can be important. We can work with the member to help identify support within their personal life, which can also include support from within the football dressing room.
- Network of support within sport. The PFA has been working with other sportspeople (including footballers) who can share their own experiences of coming out, ensuring we have a support network for any footballer making this decision. We can put any member in touch with these sportspeople privately and confidentially.
- Allies across the game. The PFA has delivered Equality and Diversity training to over 3000 professional players in England and Wales. We genuinely believe that fellow players would quickly support an openly gay colleague and the PFA would work with our members to encourage a strong message of public support from teammates.
- Club messaging. We will work with the club and fans to encourage a united and clear message of support. Utilising a variety of platforms including web, social media and a match-day marketing, we will work with other organisations to reinforce messages of equality and inclusion within football.
- External network. The PFA works closely with several LGBT+ charities and campaign groups. We can put members in touch with a wealth of contacts to provide confidential and independent advice from sources outside of football.
- Resilience training. We anticipate an overwhelmingly positive response - both within and outside of the game - in support of any player who comes out as gay. However, in the short-term, we expect there may be heightened pressures on that individual. We believe resilience training will help prepare an individual for increased scrutiny of both their private and professional life.
- Communications strategy. We will work with the player and their club to execute a media strategy in accordance with the player’s wishes. We understand that a player may wish to take a very proactive ambassadorial role within the media, or may simply want to keep the focus on playing football. Whatever a player decides, we will help them create a communications strategy accordingly.
- Social Media. We can facilitate discussions with social media networks to ensure a player is best equipped to manage their social media accounts - with guidance on blocking and reporting trolling.
- Media training. We can provide a member with media training, helping them execute a pre-planned communications strategy.
- Monitoring. The PFA will work closely with The Football Association, the relevant league and the club to closely monitor crowd activity in fixtures involving an openly gay player.
What are the PFA doing in this area?
We are delivering Diversity Training, along with Kick It Out, to young players aged 16-18. The training covers discrimination, barriers and stereo-types that still exist in the game. We explore ways to break down those barriers and stereo-types and look at the effects of discrimination. The training covers all strands of equality including gender, faith, race and sexuality. It has been marked as Outstanding by a recent Ofsted Inspection.
We are working with Show Racism the Red Card to produce an anti-homophobic DVD for schools to tackle homophobic bullying. Players have always been a part of the SRRC campaign and we are pleased with the support the film has received.
We sit on the FA Tackling Homophobia Working Group with agencies including the English Gay and Lesbian Supporters Federation (EGLSF), Stonewall and the Gay Football Supporters Network(GFSN).
We are working with Stonewall – as Diversity Champions to ensure our internal policies and procedures are as inclusive as possible.
We sit on the TUC Homophobia Group with a wide range of trade unions in order to learn and understand best practise with regard to working on Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender issues (LGBT).
We have produced a poster to encourage players and supporters alike to accept difference and understand that when you are part of a team you are never on your own. To become a professional footballer means you understand team spirit more than most. We hope any gay player will feel supported by his team mates, and know that his union is there to support all players, gay and straight.