Homosexual and lesbian sportspeople could be encouraged to come out based on the results of a BBC poll which found 82% of sports fans would not be upset if their club signed a gay player.
Nevertheless the BBC Radio 5 live poll — which took soundings from 4,000 people — also reveals 8% of football fans would cease supporting their club if they sign a gay player.
And 50% of football fans polled said they had heard homophobic abuse at matches — compared to 59% who heard racist abuse.
However, 71% of football fans polled also said clubs should educate fans on homophobia.
Supporters’ attitude to homosexual players does remain an area of concern certainly for the governing body of English football, the Football Association.
Greg Clarke, chairman of the FA, told the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sports Committee last week he would not encourage players to come out — former German international Thomas Hitzlsperger is probably the most high profile footballer to reveal his homosexuality but he waited till he had retired.
Clarke said he was “personally ashamed” there were players who did not feel “safe” to come out, and promised to “stamp down hard” on homophobic behaviour in the game.
Clarke’s remarks, though, were lambasted by former Blackburn and Celtic star Chris Sutton, who classified the 8% as ‘cavemen’.
“Coming out wouldn’t be a problem in the workplace,” Sutton told the BBC.
“Working at a football club is just like anywhere else. Players I played with wouldn’t bat an eyelid.
“This 8% shouldn’t be allowed in football grounds. By not taking it on, the 8% are the winners in all of this. Greg Clarke should be taking these people on.
“It’s bonkers in our society that people like this can dictate whether someone can come out or not,” added Sutton, who won the 1995 Premier League title with Blackburn.
Despite Sutton’s remarks the precedent of Justin Fashanu remains a sobering experience for those who may be gay and thinking of coming out.
The talented striker is the only player who while playing in England revealed he was gay in 1990 — he subsequently never settled going through 12 clubs in seven years and tragically hanged himself in 1998 aged 37.