Who Will Be English Football's Tom Daley?

    Matthew Mcfarlane
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    British Olympic Diver Tom Daley made the courageous announcement on Monday that he was in a relationship with a man. The 19 year old Bronze medalist was rightly applauded for making this public announcement and has largely received positive feedback from all members of society.

     

    Despite this support, Tom now joins an extremely small group of sportsmen and women who've openly declared their sexuality in recent years, and he joins an

    even smaller group who've done it whilst still at the peak of their sporting career.

     

    This announcement has once again resurfaced the ongoing debate about sexuality in football, specifically at the highest level (Premier League). The fact still remains that to date there are no openly gay players in any of the four divisions that make up the Football League. 

     

    So does this statistic matter? and will it ever change in the years to come?

     

    It's a well acknowledged and accepted belief that the likelihood that there isn't a single gay player currently playing in the Football League is extremely unlikely. The speculated number of gay players seems to be estimated anywhere between 10 to possibly nearer one hundred. So if this belief is actually fact, then why are these players still reluctant to make their sexualities public or at least acknowledged?  

     

    It's very plausible that there might be players right now living privately as gay men, with some even in relationships. So if this is the case then does it matter that it hasn't been made public to supporters or the media?

     

    Just recently we've seen campaigns such as the one from LGBT charity Stonewall and betting company Paddy Power. Both organisations joined forces to actively address and combat the issue of homophobia in the game across all levels. This came through the distribution of rainbow coloured laces to players from all 92 football league clubs, as a sign of support and solidarity for all LGBT members of the footballing community.

     

    These and similar initiatives therefore highlight the fact that homophobia is still a big problem in the game today, despite best efforts to combat it.

     

    So surely having an openly gay player, playing at the top of their game, in the best league in the world would only help to tackle and extinguish this issue altogether.

     

    There are a handful of players globally who have made their sexualities known, including US player Robbie Rogers and Swedish footballer Anton Hysen. Although, it's fair to say neither have been subjected to the enormous attention and publicity an 'out' player would expect to have in the English game. 

     

    This is something that has probably contributed to the reason why no British- based player since Justin Fashanu has publicly declared their sexuality.

     

    In saying that, this increased attention would also bring major endorsement opportunities, not to mention the chance to be leading role model for many LGBT football supporters.

     

    Whether a player in the English game comes out in 2014 or 2024 is actually irrelevant. What's most important is that if and when they do, they are ultimately judged for their skill and talent on the pitch, not for what they do off it.