Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill has revealed his views on why gay footballers in Britain do not come out, suggesting that there would be a fear amongst players of an ‘unforgiving’ reaction from rival supporters.
O’Neill added that he would be ‘very sensitive’ to the situation if one of his players told him he was gay.
Not his usual subject matter, the former Shamrock Rovers boss was talking about the issue as part of a sports panel on Radio Five Live yesterday.
The debate cropped up following the recent decision of Batley Bulldogs captain Keegan Hirst to announce that he was gay, becoming the first British rugby league player to do so.
Asked if such a revelation would happen soon in British football, O’Neill said: “I think we are still a bit away to be honest.
“I think the main thing in football for players isn’t their team-mates or the environment of the dressing room, I think it is the possibly the environment of the stadium which I still think for a footballer coming out would be pretty unforgiving.
“I don’t think opposition fans are going to be particularly sympathetic to that, particularly if it is someone very high profile.
“It is quite sad that we are talking about this, but footballers would be a lot more wary and I don’t see that changing in the short term.
“As a manager if a player came to me I would have to be very sensitive to how he wanted to go forward with it.”