Soccer world, meet Jason Collins. On April 29 2013, the 34-year old professional basketball player became the first openly gay active athlete in the four major sports in the United States. Collins took the leap by writing his own article in Sports Illustrated, giving him a chance to tell his story. He was overwhelmed with support from fans, celebrities and professionals alike with only a few negative comments appearing. Consensus seems to be that (even though that it does not really work like this) this could not have happened to a “better” person.
Even before he came out, Collins was lauded by coaches and players as a fantastic professional who played for the benefit of the team. His aggressive and physical style was often deployed as a defensive specialist for other physically dominant players. Collins has paved the way for other athletes in American sports. But what about across the pond in the Premier League?
A survey in 2010 suggested that 5% of the UK population is gay, lesbian or bisexual (LGB). If figures from the London Olympics are to be believed, only 0.17% of athletes are “openly gay.” Out of 12,602 athletes, 21 were openly gay with 18 of these being women. This figure is likely to be some way off the mark as this only took into account publicly open homosexuals. Similarly, gay dating application Grindr crashed within hours of the athletes arriving in London, which cannot be considered a coincidence. The homosexuality rate in sports at the elite level has been considered to be different to that of the general public, with female homosexuality increasing and male homosexuality decreasing, so while it may not be as high as 5%, I refute any claims that it would be as low at 0.17%. Conservatively settling on 2% could be seen as rational.
If we assume that each Premier League club has approximately 50 players contracted through the first team, reserves and youth team, then an estimate of 1,000 professional footballers would be reasonable. If 2% were gay then this would suggest that there are 20 gay footballers in the Premier League. There have been a few assumptions but one in every 50 does not appear to be in the realms of possibility. Max Clifford, PR advisor, claims to have at had at least two high-profile football clients come to him about being homosexual/bisexual although he advised them not to make it public and he believed that it would had a negative impact on their career.