We are working hard to create a “so what?” culture in the game so that a professional player can feel comfortable to be open about their sexuality whilst still playing football.
In the last decade only two players who have played in the English Leagues have come out, both only once they had stopped playing. Robbie Rogers (previously of Leeds United) and Thomas Hitlzberger (previously of Aston Villa, West Ham and Everton).
The PFA have been working with both players to ensure we have a support network in place when and if another footballer comes out.
Both Robbie and Thomas spoke of the over-whelming support that they got from across the world following their decisions to come out and we applaud them as pioneers. We are pleased that Robbie Rogers subsequently felt that he continue in the game and now plays for LA Galaxy in the MLS.
Everyone has the right to be themselves and as the players union we are at the forefront of creating a climate of acceptance for LGBT players.
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What are the PFA doing in this area?
We are delivering Diversity Training, along with Kick It Out, to young players aged 16-18. The training covers discrimination, barriers and stereo-types that still exist in the game. We explore ways to break down those barriers and stereo-types and look at the effects of discrimination. The training covers all strands of equality including gender, faith, race and sexuality. It has been marked as Outstanding by a recent Ofsted Inspection.
We are working with Show Racism the Red Card to produce an anti-homophobic DVD for schools to tackle homophobic bullying. Players have always been a part of the SRRC campaign and we are pleased with the support the film has received.
We sit on the FA Tackling Homophobia Working Group with agencies including the English Gay and Lesbian Supporters Federation (EGLSF), Stonewall and the Gay Football Supporters Network(GFSN).
We are working with Stonewall – as Diversity Champions to ensure our internal policies and procedures are as inclusive as possible.
We sit on the TUC Homophobia Group with a wide range of trade unions in order to learn and understand best practise with regard to working on Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender issues (LGBT).
We have produced a poster to encourage players and supporters alike to accept difference and understand that when you are part of a team you are never on your own. To become a professional footballer means you understand team spirit more than most. We hope any gay player will feel supported by his team mates, and know that his union is there to support all players, gay and straight.
To prevent players falling foul of regulations the PFA provide a Senior Players Diversity Programme for all League players.