Gay footballers currently playing in the Premier League may wait to see how Jake Daniels is received on the pitch next season before deciding whether to come out themselves, Justin Fashanu’s niece has said.
Seventeen-year-old Blackpool forward Daniels came out publicly on Monday, becoming the first openly gay footballer in Britain to do so while still playing since Fashanu in 1990.
Fashanu’s niece Amal, the founder of the Justin Fashanu Foundation and who made a 2012 BBC Three documentary called Britain’s Gay Footballers, says she knows a number of current top-flight players who are gay but reluctant to come out, all for their own reasons.
“For one player it might be about showing weakness, one might be that his family are religious, one might be the fact that his agent or his manager or his club aren’t pro gay,” Fashanu told the PA news agency.
“The impact of (Daniels) coming out will be huge. Even though he’s young, this is starting the road map. Now it’s a case of waiting to see how everyone reacts. When he’s playing, will everyone boo him? What’s going to happen?
“Putting myself in their shoes, and the fact that I do know gay footballers in the Premier League, let’s put it this way – if I was them I would definitely wait.
“It’s very important to continue to allow these players to actually see the goodness and the positive news that’s coming from this and for them to be at home and think to themselves ‘OK, I might actually be a higher-profile player (than Daniels) but look at the way he’s been welcomed and the way the fans and the people have reacted. Maybe it’s actually worth it, because it’s better to be out and suffering five per cent than 100 per cent’.”
Justin Fashanu felt his career was blighted by the fact he was gay, and he took his own life at the age of 37.
His niece believes the world Daniels has come out into is a very different one, but said: “He’s courageous because the atmosphere and the environment of football is not conditioned for a gay player.
“There’s this whole machine that’s behind football that not a lot of people know about and not a lot of people can actually access.
“Someone being supposedly accepted, and then all of a sudden not being accepted, you know, because a lot of it is front, it’s a facade.
“We can all say ‘There’s no problem in football, why are we even talking about it?’ But the next minute in those boardrooms, they have different discussions and we can’t hear them, but I’m aware of that.
“Sometimes I just think football is a dark world, and (Daniels coming out) is just showing a bit of light.”
Openly gay footballer Josh Cavallo says it is a “wonderful feeling” to know his experience helped inspire Daniels to come out.
Daniels admitted the example of Adelaide United player Cavallo, among others, had given him the courage to go public about his sexuality.
Cavallo, who came out last year, told the Guardian: “I want to stop and take a moment to acknowledge Jake’s announcement and say how very proud I am for his bravery.
“It’s a wonderful feeling knowing that my story has helped guide Jake to be his true self.
“It’s touching to see the millions of people that my story has impacted and inspired around the world, and to see it help evolve the world game at all levels, is fantastic. This world and the game of football has a place for everyone. Love will always win.”
DCMS committee chair Julian Knight MP joined those praising Daniels and said his brave act could now act as a “watershed moment” for football.