Football had silently ignored homosexuality - and homophobia - for decades. Then in 1990, Justin Fashanu came out. But after facing years of abuse on and off the pitch, Fashanu committed suicide in 1998.
After that, there was silence again until 2013 when, then Leeds United player, Robbie Rogers, came out as gay and retired from professional football. Robbie’s coming out started an international discussion about the toxic environment football has created for gay players.
After him, two more footballers who played in England came out. In January 2014, the former Aston Villa, West Ham and Everton player, Thomas Hitzlsperger, came out in an interview shortly after he retired from the professional game. Shortly afterward, Liam Davis, a semi-professional for Cleethorpes Town FC, was outed by his local newspaper based on a series of supportive tweets he sent about Hitzlsperger.
With the media storm that surrounded these men - teams, fans and other players were presented with an opportunity to reckon with the reality of gay players and address homophobic culture on the pitch and in the stands. However, it’s been five years since, and no other male players in England have come out, and the conversation that Justin Fashanu and Robbie Rogers has started faded away once again.
Today on Benched, we will reopen that conversation with our guest, Liam Davis, who was for a time England’s only active out player. He is interviewed by guest host and queer journalist Jasmine Andersson. Listen now.