Thursday, 10 August 2017

English referee comes out and says homophobia is still a problem in football

Football referee Ryan Atkin has become the first openly gay ref in the game in England.

Speaking to Sky Sports he said he felt it was the right time for him to say that he's someone involved with professional football, and just so happens to be gay.

There are currently no openly gay footballers in England.

Atkin told Sky Sports: "I hope that my action, however small, will help give others in a similar situation, the confidence to be themselves."

Calling the move a step into the unknown, he added: "Homophobia is still a problem, but things are improving all the time. Those who do need education, generally change their ways once they've been made aware that their behaviour is unacceptable in society."

Atkin began officiating games in 1999 and currently referees for National League South.

The 32 year-old had a strong message when it came to people being open and comfortable, with who they are.

He said: "It's my belief that being yourself, without fear, ultimately makes you happier, which in turn makes you a better person. Some of my colleagues already know about my sexuality, and they treat me equally and with respect."

"I'm confident that those who don't yet know will be just as accepting. Going forward, I don't want to dwell unnecessarily on the possibility of not being accepted by others."

It's no secret that homophobia is still a problem in football.

In May FA boss Greg Clarke said the men's game is two decades behind the women's game, when it comes to attitudes around sexuality.

Recent awareness raising campaigns have also been adopted by major football clubs, including the Premier League.

Stonewall's Rainbow laces campaign, which involved players and officials wearing rainbow laces over one weekend in November, really brought the issue further into the spotlight, with more clubs than ever taking part.

The campaign's slogan is "Make Football Everyone's Game", and club's supported the initiative by posting pro-LGBT messages across their social networks, and around stadiums during the games.

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