Football Association chairman Greg Clarke believes the men’s game is “probably a couple of decades” away from feeling as LGBT inclusive as the women’s.
Clarke, speaking on Monday at LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) equality charity Stonewall’s ‘Rainbow Laces’ summit at Old Trafford, said there was something “not right” about the men’s game in this area.
There are currently no openly gay footballers playing in the Premier League. German midfielder Thomas Hitzlsperger, who featured in the division for Aston Villa, West Ham and Everton, came out after retiring, as did winger Robbie Rogers after leaving Leeds to return to play in his native United States.
Clarke said: “I have had conversations with the PFA and the LMA on this issue, and we have talked about how we can encourage professional footballers who want to come out to come out in a safe space.
“We are trying to engage with them, to talk to them. But to be perfectly frank, they are reticent to engage with me.
“You can talk to people from the women’s game, which is inclusive, which is safe. But something about the men’s game is not right because if it was right, we could have those conversations.”
Clarke used the example of the atmosphere he experienced at Saturday’s Women’s FA Cup final in terms of LGBT inclusivity as an example of where the men’s game needs to get to.
“I was at the Women’s FA Cup final and it was great, inclusive – there were gay people, straight people, transgender people, and it was a wonderful occasion,” Clarke said.
“For me, when the finals in the men’s competitions have the same feel, we will have succeeded.
“It is about when the men’s game starts to feel as inclusive as the women’s game – then we are there.”
When then asked how far off he thought that was, he replied: “Probably a couple of decades.”