Jess Fishlock: 'Environment must be right for gay players,' says Wales footballer

Jess Fishlock
Jess Fishlock joined National Women's Soccer League side Seattle Reign in February 2013

Wales women's footballer Jess Fishlock says more must be done to provide an environment in which gay players feel comfortable to come out.

Fishlock, 29, has previously spoken about the challenges she has faced as a high-profile gay athlete.

No current Premier League players are openly gay but a recent BBC survey found 82% of fans would have no issue with a gay player.

"The environment and the timing is so important," Fishlock said.

"That's what we have to get - the environment to say 'it's ok and it's not a problem'. That's what we're fighting for and what we've got to work on."

She told BBC Radio Wales Sport: "You don't want a footballer to come out for all the wrong reasons and then have a negative impact for that person.

"What you do want is for them to feel comfortable that they can come out, they can be themselves and they're happy with that."

Former England women's captain Casey Stoney publicly revealed her sexuality for the first time in February 2014 and became the most high-profile active gay footballer in England.

Stoney said homosexuality was more accepted in the women's game than the men's game.

Justin Fashanu was the first player in England to come out as gay in 1990, but took his own life aged 37 in 1998. No male professional player has come out while playing in England since.

The Seattle Reign player, currently on loan at Melbourne City, said she had received abuse during her career for being gay but was also proud she had inspired others come to terms with their own sexuality.

"I've had people write letters telling how me being so open and so happy and so comfortable with who I am at the highest level at a huge sport has actually made them realise it's ok and they don't have to commit suicide or they don't have these dark thoughts anymore," she added.

"When you hear that and when you get that I guess nothing else really matters because that is such a big thing to have."

Thomas Hitzlsperger
Ex-Aston Villa midfielder Thomas Hitzlsperger revealed he was gay after finishing playing in England

Ex-Germany and Aston Villa player Thomas Hitzlsperger became the first player with Premier League experience to publicly reveal his homosexuality in January 2014 after he had finished playing in England.

Football Association chairman Greg Clarke told a Commons Select Committee in October that Premier League players would still suffer "significant abuse" if they chose to reveal they were gay.

This weekend, football and rugby union will support a campaign helping to raise awareness of issues faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) fans and players.

The Rainbow Laces campaign, launched by LGBT equality charity Stonewall in 2013, aims to tackle homophobic, biphobic and transphobic attitudes in sport.

Rainbow flags will feature at Premier League fixtures, while referees will wear rainbow-coloured laces and Fishlock says she supports the campaign's aims.

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