London: Most sports fans in England, Wales and Scotland would have no problem if their club signed a gay player despite a top football official claiming that he would not encourage stars to declare their homosexuality.
A BBC radio poll took soundings from 4,000 people with 82 percent insisting they would be comfortable with having a gay player.
Only eight percent said they would cease supporting their club if their team signed a gay footballer.
Furthermore, 50 percent of football fans polled said they had heard homophobic abuse at matches compared to 59% who heard racist abuse while 71 percent said clubs should educate fans on homophobia.
Last week, Greg Clarke, chairman of the Football Association, told a House of Commons committee he would not encourage players to come out.
Clarke said he was "personally ashamed" there were players who did not feel "safe" to come out, and promised to "stamp down hard" on homophobic behaviour in the game.
However, British lawmaker Damian Collins, chairman of the Culture, Media and Sports Committee, told AFP that Clarke's attitude and that of the FA had to change.
"The challenge is for the FA to take a lead on homophobia and say it will not be tolerated," he told AFP by telephone on Wednesday.
"My concern with Greg Clarke's attitude is instead of discouraging players to come out he should be saying go ahead and do so and we will support the players who do.
"Homophobia is just as unacceptable as racism and the FA should be working with the clubs and also punishing them if they are unable to control their fans."
Collins said the FA's lack of action contrasted starkly with that of rugby league and Wakefield Wildcats Keegan Hirst, who came out last year.
"Why is rugby league showing the way with Keegan Hirst who has the full support of his club and fans and feels confident he won't encounter abuse when he plays and how come a footballer can't?" said Collins.
Former Blackburn and Celtic star Chris Sutton classified the eight percent who said they would stop following their team as "cavemen".
"This 8 percent shouldn't be allowed in grounds. By not taking it on, they are the winners in all of this. Greg Clarke should be taking these people on."
Despite Sutton's remarks the precedent of Justin Fashanu remains a sobering story.
The talented striker revealed he was gay in 1990. He hanged himself in 1998 aged 37.
Published Date: Oct 27, 2016 01:50 pm | Updated Date: Oct 27, 2016 01:50 pm