Young Straight Football Players More Likely to Accept Gay Teammate: Study


Young gay footballers (as soccer players outside of Canada and the U.S. are called) are more likely to be well-received by their teammates than they were a decade ago, suggests a new study by the universities of Kent and Winchester in the U.K.

The study involved 22 heterosexual Premier League players (between the ages of 16–18) from working-class backgrounds. All of the participants said they would accept a gay teammate. 

From the University of Kent:

The study results showed a marked difference in acceptance of gay teammates compared to the findings of the last such study, carried out a decade ago.

Dr Roberts said: ‘The interview results were broadly consistent with other recent research on young British men of their age in that these men showed no overt animosity towards gay men.

‘In fact, they were more than tolerant and showed an inclusive attitude toward the hypothetical situation of having a gay teammate, best friend or roommate reveal their sexuality. The results are clear: among the 22 future footballers we interviewed, all were unbothered by the issue of gays in sport.

‘This indicated a marked shift in perception from the last study. Although there was some evidence then that attitudes were changing, there has been a generational shift over the last decade. Lads now are saying “we would openly support and accept one of our colleagues coming out”.’

Another of the study's authors, Professor Eric Anderson, found in another study in 2002 "that gay male athletes were tolerated by teammates, ‘as long as they played the sport well’. However, there were no findings of active ‘support’."

He went on to say that "Recent comments by Robbie Rogers, the former Leeds United footballer who came out but then left the English game to return to play in the US, suggested he didn’t know how easy it would have been to make the transition. However, our research does suggest that attitudes in the locker room among young British players would lay the foundation for a player to be able to come out."


  1. Dback says

    I think it also depends on the nature of the sport; soccer players do a lot of passing with their feet, whereas American football or rugby involves more full-on body contact, as do wrestling, etc. Maybe some athletes are more tweaked it they’re grinding up on one another (though considering the “straight” guys on Fratpad….)

  2. crispy says

    The concern (and Robbie Rogers covered this in his coming out letter) isn’t with teammates. It’s with the fans. Football fans can be bloody ruthless, and they use things like race, physical appearance, gossip and/or perceived sexual orientation to try to rattle the players. There are accusations of racial abuse in nearly every Premiere League game.

    @Dback: Haven’t watched many soccer games, have you? Soccer is an extremely contact sport. They are practically hugging one another during corner and free kicks.

  3. gypsy78 says

    Not to be pedantic but Australians, New Zealanders, South Africans and many other English speakers refer to soccer as soccer, not just North Americans. The Aussie soccer team is even nicknamed the ‘Soccerroos’. In AUS football or footie is Aussie Rules Football and in NZ and ZA rugby is officially known as Rugby Football. The professional league in ZA is the PSL – Professional Soccer League.

  4. Dback says

    Not since I played it as a grade-schooler, Crispy. :) We weren’t big huggers back then. (I know European football, especially, is more contact-oriented–especially when someone scores the winning goal and a gay orgy basically breaks out on the field.)

  5. etseq says

    Be careful – this is an Eric Anderson study. He’s an american sociologist that has a position in the UK and is infamous for tailoring these studies for high media impact. He pumps out these small non-representative sample size studies like once a month and heavily markets them to the press. This is the same guy that has said a)40% of football players have had gay sex (the sample was like 30 people and they were all male cheerleaders who had previously played high school football), b) had a weird qualitative study in the “journal of bisexuality” that claimed basically that everyone is bisexual – he did this by redefining bisexual to include non-sexual close personal friendships between men!, c) monogamy is impossible for men based on a small sample size of popular college football players who had lots of female sexual partners d) homophobia had basically disappeared in british high schools based on studies at two exclusive boarding schools in the uk, etc. The weird thing is he has like two former students who did their phds with him and they all pump out these same studies and cite each other. So, it makes his impact scores look artificially high.

    Anyway, he’s basically markets pop science to the media to help him sell books. But hey more power to him…

  6. says

    I am the maligned researcher that ETSEQ describes above; one of the authors on the study. We selected a club to study, and found that all of the aspiring Premiership players were fine with the possibility of having a gay teammate, sleeping in the same bed with him, etc. We can think of know outstanding difference why these racially diverse men should be any different than other young British men in their shoes – but we also back our statement up with multiple quantitative studies of young men’s attitudes toward homosexuality; particularly in sport. As it stands, there is no researcher in the Western World that shows teamsport athletes retain high or elevated levels of homophobia compared to non-athletes. Conversely, all of the research shows that homophobia in the general population and among young athletes is decreasing rapidly. Even among Premiership fans, Cashmore and Ellis show that 93% would support a gay player (yes, players likely fear the 7%).

    For ETSEQ to ‘warn’ you to be careful with these results is to continue with a line of prejudice – it is to promote the notion that teamsport athletes remain homophobic; and there is no evidence to support that position.

    Concerning my other research, ETSEQ, if you knew me, you’d know that I don’t use the media to sell books, I make less than 500 dollars a year from my books. I write books so that I can use the media to tell the world that the landscape has changed. Most academics (sadly) sit in their ivory towers masturbating – writing for only other academics and usually in inaccessible language. Conversely, I have no desire to please other academics. I use my scholarship to inform society – and the media is how that’s done.

    It sounds ETSEQ like you’re jealous that you don’t work as hard, publish as much, have a research topic as interesting, or have a community of established and emerging scholars who desire to collaborate with you. Funny thing, because I do! Why don’t you reveal yourself on this thread, or at least email me privately, and perhaps I’ll help you publish too? Something topical, of importance, and yes, something that people will actually be interested in.

    Professor Eric Anderson

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