Signing gay players could benefit lower league teams, football finance expert says

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Football clubs lower down the pyramid could benefit from signing an openly gay player, according to a football finance expert.

Despite a recent BBC survey suggesting 8% of fans would boycott their team if they were to sign a homosexual footballer, Professor Tom Cannon from the University of Liverpool believes extra support would be found in the LGBT community.

The Radio 5 Live research, carried out by ComRes, questioned more than 4,000 people on the subject of homophobia in football after Football Association chairman Greg Clarke said last week he was "cautious" of encouraging a player to come out as gay.

Football Association chairman Greg Clarke - (Mike Egerton/PA)
(Mike Egerton/PA)

While a drop in attendances could come after 8% of those questioned said they would not go to watch their team if it signed a gay player, Cannon insists the goodwill from the gay community would more than make up for those stay-away fans.

Asked if clubs could actually see an increase in finance through ticket sales and merchandising if they were to sign a gay player, Cannon replied: "Absolutely.

"Given the situation, we have seen it in America in American football when a player comes out as gay, there is suddenly more interest from the gay and lesbian community, the LGBT community as a whole."

Casey Stoney at the Fifa Women's World Cup in 2015 in Canada - (Vaughn Ridley/EMPICS Sport)
(Vaughn Ridley/EMPICS Sport)

Cannon continued: "The evidence in America is that the gay community want to support anyone who comes out in that way, if you are a lower division team I think you are more likely to gain than lose.

"We know it has happened with the black community, the Asian community, the Chinese community. Once somebody takes the first step, you realise the clubs and supporters embrace it."

The BBC survey also found 82% of supporters would have no issue with a gay player joining.

The survey also revealed 71% of football fans said clubs should do more to educate fans about homophobia, with Kevin Hylton, Professor of Equality and Diversity in the School of Sport at Leeds Beckett University, calling on Clarke to work alongside others in the game to help eradicate the issue.

A footballer wears rainbow laces to support an anti-homophobia campaign - (Mike Egerton/EMPICS Sport)
(Mike Egerton/EMPICS Sport)

"My message to Greg Clarke is be brave," he said.

"Bet on the majority and not the small minority in football. Be vocal, ramp up any anti-homophobia work in the game and let the 8% know that they are being policed out of the game.

"Be inclusive, you're not alone, the clubs, and fans, media and national governing organisations can all support this movement for social justice."