Being LGBTQ is much more accepted in women’s football than men’s but why is this? Many female footballers are openly gay and feel comfortable in front of their fans, teammates and coaches but it’s not a luxury afforded to men.

One of the most famous cases known in English Football is regarding Justin Fashanu. He played for many clubs including Norwich, Nottingham Forest and Notts County and he was Britain’s first gay footballer.

Before he came out, many of his fellow players and coaches already knew that Justin was gay and many of them were ok with that but Justin was not comfortable sharing this information with the world. Justin was forced to `come out` because a tabloid paper had learnt about his secret and was threatening to expose him if he didn’t give them an exclusive interview.

In an autobiography about his life it says that he was “terrified” about the reaction from the media and the fans when he came out, there wasn’t the same level of support players get now from the Football Association, Players Football Association and the leagues. Being black Justin was already faced with racial abuse, it was the 1980s and most black footballers were constantly subjected to racial abuse from terraces. Monkey chants were sung at the players and bananas were often thrown onto the pitch. When he was `outed` Fashanu would also have words such as “faggot” “fairy” and “tart” chanted at him. The abuse didn’t just come from “fans” when he was on the pitch as its alleged that his manager at Nottingham Forest, Brian Clough, displayed signs of homophobia and would often ask him “why do you visit gay bars?” and rumour has it that Justin was released from the club because of Clough’s attitude and opinion.

Later on, in his career Fashanu moved to America to coach football but whist he was over there he was accused of sexual assault on a 17-year-old boy which he strongly denied, Justin couldn’t bear the heartache and constant allegations so he moved back to England in 1998 where he sadly ended his life at the age of 37.

In the past 22 years since Justin died there have been next to no footballers come out as gay or part of the LGBTQ community, however a handful have come out after they have retired from the game. When interviewed they confirmed they feared that had they come out whist playing they would have faced abusive from the fans or been passed over for progression/club moves.

Why is this fear factor not felt or experienced within the women’s game? Perhaps it’s because Women’s football is not as popular as the men’s game and many female footballers have come out before they became famous or well known, therefore is not a shock. Perhaps it’s because people have already stereotyped female players and have already labelled them gay because football has traditionally been seen as a `mans’ game` or maybe it’s more acceptable to be gay if you are a woman. Whatever the reason, women are clearly more comfortable in their skin as a person and player and feel happier and more supported than the men do.

Time will tell whether the LGBTQ movement has a positive impact on the male footballers. It is well known that people performed better in all aspects of their life if they are happy, how can male footballers reach their true potential all the time they are not fully content with all parts of their life?

By Megan Spalding, Tolworth Girls School