Hibs’ Leeann Dempster says Scotland is ready to support gay players

Leeann Dempster, having experienced her own challenge with her sexuality, believes gay footballers would be well supported. Picture: SNS.
Leeann Dempster, having experienced her own challenge with her sexuality, believes gay footballers would be well supported. Picture: SNS.
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Leeann Dempster believes Scottish football is ready for openly gay footballers.

The Hibs chief executive told the BBC she believes the tolerant and progressive way of thinking in Scotland would allow a gay footballer to come out.

Dempster, who has been in a civil partnership since 2007, said: “There are obviously gay footballers, many of them. One in ten of the population [is gay], something like that. Well, there are 11 players on the field…”

The 48-year-old, who has at times been subjected to homophobic abuse on social media, insisted the vast majority of people would be supportive of any player who decided to come out.

“You are always going to get people who revert – you are never going to get rid of these people,” she said. “But the vast majority, because of things like equal marriage and the progressive laws here, would be fine.

“I am so proud to be from Scotland because I think it is one of the most progressive countries.”

Justin Fashanu, a striker who had spells with Airdrieonians and Hearts in the early 1990s, is the only openly gay footballer to have played in the Scottish professional leagues. Fashanu, pictured, took his own life at the age of 37 in 1998, and while Dempster believes it would be “brave” for a Scottish footballer to come out as gay, she revealed her life has been “enriched” since she felt able to talk about 
her sexuality.

“It would be brave,” she said. “It’s always brave to be the first. I’ve not really talked about it in the media, but recently we lost someone and it made me think about my responsibility as someone who has exposure.

“There will be people out there finding it difficult reconciling how they are feeling and it is incumbent on people like me to say, ‘follow your instinct and trust in civic society because most folk are good’.”

Last month Dempster said in an interview: “Like many people who eventually realise at a point in their life that they are gay, you go through challenges, and I did struggle a little bit.

“I probably realised in my mid-20s. I’d had boyfriends but I met somebody who turned my life upside down entirely unexpectedly.

“It was difficult and it was unexpected for me but I’m really glad it happened because I’m very settled, I’m very happy, and I feel very fortunate. I actually feel pretty blessed.”