Viv Anderson, the first-ever black player to appear for the England football team, has encouraged gay players to “come out” and “enjoy their careers” instead of “hiding”.
The 59-year-old Nottingham Forest and Manchester United star Anderson told RadioTimes.com it would be “healthier” for everyone involved in football if players were open about their sexuality.
Anderson played in the same Forest team as Justin Fashanu, the first English footballer to be openly gay. Fashanu committed suicide in 1998, eight years after announcing he was gay.
Viv Anderson’s one-time teammate Justin Fashanu, who committed suicide in 1988
Anderson, who appears in a new Brian Clough film I Believe in Miracles, said, “I think there’s a lot of footballers playing up and down the country and we would be naïve not to think there are gay footballers playing.
“I think we have moved on now from the era when I was playing where it was a bit taboo to come out.
“In 2015 I think they should be encouraged to come out and enjoy their careers instead of hiding behind whatever.”
Anderson said clubs should back up attempts for more openness in the game, by getting stewards to kick out of the stadium people who make homophobic remarks in the way racist taunts are punished.
Gay footballers still nearly always keep their sexuality a secret amid fear of a backlash from fans and the reaction of their own teammates. For many in the game the issue is still a taboo subject, to the extent that recent revelations that two Premier League players – one said to be an England international – were planning to come out, attracted headlines.
He added, “It would be healthier for them and it would be healthier for everybody connected to just get on with it now and your teammates accept you for what you are.”
When asked whether gay players had perhaps resisted coming out for fear of taunts from the terraces, Anderson said: “There’s stewards all over the place now if there’s any racial taunts they are kicked out of football stadiums.
“I think it is the same if you make any statements about being gay… it may be the same premise should still be abided by.”
Anderson also said that the game had “gone backwards” when it came to the number of black managers and coaches.
Anderson was a player-manager at Barnsley, and said that when he took charge of that team he had expected lots more black and Asian managers to come into the game. But he said the reality had been the “opposite” to this.
He said: “It doesn’t make any sense. I think it is the owners and people in hierarchy in football clubs. Clearly they think they make good players but they don’t make very good managers for whatever reason. I don’t know if it is a stereotypical view. I don’t know. You will have to ask these individual owners.”