No current Premier League football player has publicly come out as gay, despite estimates that there are gay or bisexual players in every football team. Although the Professional Footballers Association have offered to help by providing counselling to anyone who needs support, an anonymous Premier League player recently penned an open letter calling upon “authorities, fans, players, managers, agents, club owners” to do more to root out the “huge amount of prejudice” that, he argues, prevents many like him from being open about their sexual orientation.
An overwhelming majority (70%) of the public indicated that they would support this player coming out as gay, while just 3% would oppose. Expressions of support came from all ages and political parties, perhaps contradicting the notion that attitudes towards homosexuality reveal generational and political divisions.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has recently come under pressure to demonstrate his support for various social justice movements. Redfield & Wilton Strategies has previously investigated public opinion on these movements, such as to Black Lives Matter, as well as their views on expressions of support from politicians, such as taking a knee. On this occasion, a plurality (44%) of the public believe that the Prime Minister should publicly offer his support to the player, while 20% disagree. 2019 Labour Party voters were 11% more likely than 2019 Conservative supporters to demand action, as were younger participants.
Given the numerous announcements made by former professional players about their sexuality once in retirement or while retiring from the game, it is highly likely that the story of fear and anguish expressed by the anonymous player will resonate with others currently in a similar position. However, this poll suggests that the public’s attitudes are overwhelmingly accepting, and that a very, very small minority would express opposition to the anonymous letter’s author or any other professional footballer coming out and sharing his sexual orientation.