Openly gay footballer Liam Davis believes there is a group of around 20 players who are considering coming out together.
The 27-year-old Cleethorpes Town midfielder has spoken about his own experiences as part of UEFA’s Equal Game campaign, which aims to foster greater inclusion and diversity in the sport.
Davis has urged stars in the sport not to fear revealing their sexuality - and says a group of players from across Europe coming out together could ease the burden on those involved.
“Maybe it would be better if somehow you could share the workload,” Davis told the Daily Telegraph. “Let’s be honest, it would be easier if there was a group of them coming out together.
“Apparently there’s a group of about 20 who are working on this, who have confided in people. The only problem with that is then it would all seem very staged.”
Davis disagrees with Football Association chairman Greg Clarke, who said professional players who announce they are gay would be taking a risk.
Clarke said last year that he would not advise a footballer to come out while still playing because of the abuse they would face from the terraces and social media.
Part-time footballer Davis came out to team-mates early in his career and reckons the sport’s attitude to homosexuality is increasingly progressive, although no player in the Premier League or Football League is openly gay.
“My advice to a young gay footballer at any level or any standard is just to be themselves,” Davis said. “Don’t over-worry and overthink things. I don’t think it will be as big an issue as you think.”
Davis does admit opponents have made derogatory comments about his sexual orientation, but insisted his team-mates have always defended him.
And he thinks footballers can thrive in being openly gay, despite isolated incidents of abuse.
“Footballers say things to try to get a reaction, and that’s maybe why I’ve had a couple of comments,” Davis said.
“It doesn’t make it right, it doesn’t make it any better, but when you’re on the pitch I think that’s partly the reason why.
“My team-mates have always backed me up. When you’re playing, it is just another game. My sexual orientation has never been a thought when I’m playing football.
“It has always been about just football. What we do on the pitch should stay on the pitch. What you do off the pitch is your life.”
UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin said: “We do not tolerate any kind of homophobic, racist or sexist behaviour, and we will always stand for values such as diversity, gender equality and social inclusion.”
Piara Powar, executive director of Football Against Racism in Europe, hailed UEFA for addressing the issue of homophobia.
“The UEFA Equal Game film about Liam represents the first time that an international football governing body has addressed an issue that is still a taboo in many parts of Europe,” Powar said.
“The film helps us all to understand that in football there is a place for all of us to be accepted, whatever our background, and that homophobia and exclusion cannot be tolerated.”