2019, what a time to be a professional footballer: fame, multi-million-pound contracts, and the “unconditional” love of the fans. You can drive a £9 million Bugatti to practice, sleep with your brother’s wife and bring your personal hairdresser to every game… you can even have your very own private island just for hunting.
Apparently, as a pro, you can get away with anything… but there’s obviously something not quite right with the environment in the men’s Premier League when there are no openly gay or bisexual players at a time when more and more are identifying as LGBTQ across the UK and Ireland.
So, put simply, football has a problem with homophobia and Paddy Power wants to continue to help tackle that.
In an imaginary, upside-down world, coming out as a footballer would be the real taboo…
As anyone who’s attended a game, or watched in the pub knows, homophobic abuse is rife – particularly aimed at (presumed straight) players.
This creates a toxic environment which no doubt has a significantly negative impact on LGBTQ players’ ability to be themselves, for LGBTQ fans and staff in stadiums and pubs, young aspiring footballers who may not be ‘out’, as well as the majority of the football community who agree homophobia has no place within the beautiful game.
Yes, there are still no openly LGBTQ footballers in the men’s top flight, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t untold numbers in the UK and Ireland playing the beautiful game. These are the real game changers, taking a stand every time they step into a pitch.
To give them the visibility they deserve we have created Proud United, a squad welcoming LGBTQ players and allies from across the UK, formed in conjunction with The Gay Times. It’s a team with a single goal: tackling homophobia in the world of football.
Managed by Liverpool legend, Graeme Souness and LGBTQ ally, Proud United will make its debut this weekend at Brighton and Hove Pride on Saturday, showing the world they can no longer be overlooked by carrying a massive symbol that can’t be ignored. European Cup hero Souness is no stranger to championing diversity in football, having signed the first black player (Mark Walters, 1987) to play for Rangers and the first Catholic (Mo Johnston) to the club exactly 20 years ago almost to the day.
Be a game changer, join us in standing up for LGBTQ players. #ComeOutAndPlay