There are still no openly gay or bi male professional soccer players in Britain – but one female goalkeeper has explained how women’s football is very different.
Indeed former Tottenham Hotspur goalkeeper Chloe Morgan says the sport was a ‘safe haven’ for her.
The 30-year-old gay player has just retired from the London club, better known as Spurs, after five years.
She told the BBC LGBT Sport Podcast:
‘I think there’s generally quite a big understanding amongst women’s teams that there are generally members of the LGBTQ+ population within a lot of these teams.
‘It was always very well accepted, I never assumed any prejudice or discrimination of any sort.
‘It did become a bit of a safe haven for me. I knew there were other members of the community who felt the same way that I did, [who I could] rely on to have my back if anything did happen.
‘It’s definitely been a weight off my mind to know the football community is a place where I don’t need to hide a certain part of myself.’
While at Spurs, Morgan had a full-time professional contract. That is comparatively rare in female soccer. By comparison, many more male players are full-time professionals, and goalkeepers in the UK earn up to £375,000 a week ($472,000 €418,000).
Abuse from fans is growing
Meanwhile, women’s football is attracting more and more support. The 2019 Women’s World Cup was a breakthrough in the sport’s profile and included at least 41 openly gay and bi players.
But with popularity, Morgan says there’s also been a rise in haters attending the games.
She said: ‘I started to see a bit of a change in attitudes in around the 2018/19 season. At that point Spurs were gaining momentum, we were looking at promotion into the WSL [Women’s Super League] and there were quite a few eyes on us, a lot more fans coming to our games.
‘I started to see a different sub-section of fans, the ones who weren’t always coming along to support you. Sometimes they would come along with the aim of distracting you or to make you feel uncomfortable so that you don’t perform well.
‘There was a couple of times during that season when I suffered some abuse from fans. It wasn’t from being black or LGBTQ+ it was just general abuse to make me feel very uncomfortable.
‘Women’s football is going to grow in momentum and grow in support – which is a fantastic thing. But you’re going to have a risk that the wrong people will start to come to the games.
‘I wouldn’t want that to put off families, young women, young boys from coming to the matches.
‘I think we need to start looking at security at the games and promoting this positive mentality amongst fans so players and fans alike feel well supported in that arena.’
Transphobes have also targeted women’s football in the UK to try to stop trans women taking part.