Heterosexual West Ham United footballer Matt Jarvis has become only the third footballer to appear on the cover of gay magazine Attitude.

As The Independent reports, he follows in the footsteps of David Beckham and former Arsenal player Freddie Ljungberg.

The winger says he hopes that a gay footballer will feel comfortable coming out as “it’s not something that is going to be a shock.”

There are currently no players in the English league who are openly gay. Justin Fashnu was the last openly gay footballer player in this country, coming out in 1990 but suffered abuse and committed suicide eight years later.

Editor of Attitude, Matthew Todd has backed up Jarvis’s comments saying that homophobia needs to be addressed the same way as racism is in football.

Sadly though, as much as optimistic Jarvis and fellow players and fans encourage inclusiveness there is still an issue to tackle. Stonewall, the charity representing lesbians, gays and bisexuals found in a recent poll that one in four fans believe that football is an anti- gay sport.

Undoubtedly Jarvis’s stance is the right attitude but I cannot imagine that his comments will be echoed entirely on the terraces where anonymity influences attitude. It’s much easier to judge and conform to those around you when you are just one face in a crowd of many. That is the mentality that some fans have when abusing rival teams players or officials.

In addition, the media attention given to homosexuality in football only adds to the pressure of ‘the one’ player who will eventually come out. Not only would they possibly, sadly have to contend with criticism and abuse from peers but also to be known not for their footballing talents or achievements, for their work in their chosen profession; but because of their sexuality.

Therefore, the stigma attached to homosexuality in football will not disappear just because of one more person supporting the cause. Besides, it is hard to distinguish the level of homophobia in the same way as racism in football until there is a footballer who comes out.

Patrick Strudwick’s article on the guardian website offers a very interesting take on the subject: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jan/04/footballer-attitude-gay-players-out-closet

Comments

I have a feeling the headline here should be the latest taboo in football. Having one more person support the cause is not going to solve the issue no. But it's a start. It's like if you eat chocolate one piece leads to a whole bar. Matt Jarvis isn't trying to solve the issue by doing one interview, he's trying to bring a problem to light that has slightly fallen by the way-side with racism taking a stronger lead.

To be honest if I had any ability between my feet and a ball I would play football, but sadly I don't, but footballers need to have the environment where they can feel safe enough to be true to themselves.

I cannot understand why people want the long awaited 'gay' footballer. Hextrosexual footballers do not have to come out and confirm that they are straight, so why should 'gay' footballers have to come out and make the statement. Supporters are there for the football skills, football chat and all other things football.

I understand that there are problems with chants like 'Number 3's a homosexual' etc, etc and I condemn chants like this. But, that is a problem which needs and is being addressed. I have certainly noticed that such chants have been reduced in non-league by tight stewarding, while I have noticed less homophobic chants at league matches than when I first started attending matches. This is a wider social problem though and won't be helped by a player 'outing himself' and being forced into a media spotlight. Homophobia is a problem which ranks alongside racism in how much society should be appalled by it, but it also a case of education. Homosexuals are becoming more and more accepted in a country which has only allowed open practice since 1967. There are many famous celebrities who have declared themselves openly gay in the wider world, perhaps this should be enough to change attitudes. Rather than hoping that 1 man should take the plunge and risk the awful results of last time. Nonetheless authorities should stand firm against homophobic behaviour, because it is disgusting regardless of where and when.

Attitude tackles the last taboo in football