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10 August 2017, 17:44
Ryan Atkin has come out as the first gay professional referee in the United Kingdom - something Iain Dale wants to see more of in the industry.
The 32-year-old ref said football still has a problem with homophobia, but is adamant the game is taking steps forward to tackle it.
During an interview with Sky Sports, Ryan said he didn’t feel compelled to talk about his sexuality because of football.
A few years back Iain Dale wrote a piece for Attitude Magazine encouraging more gay people in the profession to speak out about his sexuality.
As he discusses the topic on his LBC show this afternoon, you can read Iain’s full blog post below.
He hadn’t told anyone. Not even his agent. It was going to be done on his own terms. Adam Ranger hadn’t told his mother what he was about to do, and he especially hadn’t told his gossipy sister.
They would all find out like the rest of the country. Had he told any one of them, he knew they would come out with all sorts of reasons why he shouldn’t go ahead with what he knew would affect him for the rest of his life.
You see, Adam Ranger, star England central defender, was about to announce to the world he was gay.
He knew the risks. He was prepared for the media storm that would no doubt engulf him. People who do something ‘first’ always become renowned.
Adam was prepared for that – what he didn’t want to become was ‘notorious’. He calculated that if he did it, others would follow suit.
And follow suit quickly. He knew that in every dressing room up and down the land there were men like him.
Indeed, he knew of one Premier League team where four of the starting eleven were gay. It wasn’t as if anyone was particularly secret any longer.
Looks were exchanged. People just knew, but rarely said anything. Adam had thought long and hard about how to do it. Press conference? No. Too uncontrollable. Newspaper exclusive. No. The other newspapers which hadn’t had the story would be angry and seek to trash him. TV or radio? Maybe, but would he get the time to say what he wanted to say? Would he be able to control the editing? Probably not.
No, Adam decided to do a Tom Daley and record his own Youtube video. After training one day, he went down to PC World and bought a video camera and tripod.
“Alright, Adam?” said the sales assistant. “Got the girls coming round, have we?” He joshed, with a deliberate wink.
“Yeah, something like that,” smiled Adam. “If only you knew, mate,” he thought to himself.
He went home, set up the camera, sat down and looked straight into the lens. “I’m Adam Ranger. I play for England. And I’ve got something I want to tell you…”
Four weeks later…
It had been a momentous month. The praise, the almost entirely positive reaction from his own teammates who had lined up after training and done a collective moonie while p***ing themselves laughing.
The phone calls from players from other clubs, his England teammates had been a mixture of hilarious, emotional and highly charged. Tears were shed.
Three other international players followed Adam’s lead in the week after he came out to the world.
A dozen lower league players did too. And all to an ever increasing shrug of the shoulders.
In his first game after the video release on Youtube Adam ran out at Upton Park, a difficult place for an opposition player at the best of times, to a standing ovation from most of the crowd. He hadn’t bargained for that and for a moment lost his composure.
As the applause died down a chant started from the Bobby Moore Stand of “Does your boyfriend know you’re here?” Adam laughed, grabbed the hand of one of his teammates and bowed. The applause restarted.
Yes, there were problems. He knew there would be. His agent was furious with him. “You’ve jeopardised all your commercial contracts by doing this,” he fumed.
Adam suspected the very opposite would be true. And he was right. The offers flooded in. “We want you to be the face of our company,” said the chief exec of a major clothing brand. And there was more. Lots more.
Back in the room…
And that’s how I’d like to think things would be if a professional footballer took that great leap.
OK, I might be writing with rose tinted spectacles, but I genuinely think it would be a lot more like this scenario than it was for Justin Fashanu 25 years ago.
I have no idea how many professional footballers read Attitude Magazine.
Probably more than you think. But if there’s only one, think about the trail you would blaze.
Think about what kind of example you would set, not just to your fellow footballers but everyone else. Be proud of who and what you are. And tell the world.