Gay footballers should not be scared of coming out - UEFA campaign star

Openly gay footballer Liam Davis has urged players not to fear revealing their sexuality.

The Cleethorpes Town midfielder has admitted receiving abuse from opponents, but says football's attitudes to homosexuality are increasingly progressive.

The 27-year-old has spoken out encouraging gay footballers not to worry about coming out, sharing his own experiences as part of UEFA's Equal Game campaign to foster greater inclusion and diversity in the sport.

"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.

"I never once thought about football when I came out. It was just a case of: this is who I am and I think this is the time to tell people who I am.

"But I would never, ever overthink it. And then football just fell into place. It was out of season at the time. I joined a new team, didn't think about it and everything went on like normal.''

Davis does admit opponents have made derogatory comments about his sexual orientation, but says his teammates have always defended him.

And he says 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 teammates 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.''

Underlining UEFA's stance against discrimination, 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.''