If one in 10 people are gay, where are all the gay Premiership stars? It's a question that's often asked, but there are only whispers, dodgy rumours and malicious media gossip for answers. Football, it seems, is one of the last professional environments where you can't be out and proud. In every other entertainment industry we have gay stars. Why should football be different? Are football fans really so incapable of watching a gay player without abusing him? The same bunch of fans who are routinely homophobic always sing along to the camp-as-you-like Scissors Sisters anthems played at grounds up and down the country or the Pet Shop Boys song 'Go West'?
A senior executive in football said to me he wished all the gay footballers would come out so we could just get on with it. I find that view refreshing. In marketing terms they could make a fortune. Just imagine, football's first gay couple playing for rival teams, arguing about offside decisions over the dinner table. They would do Hello! magazine, chatshows, advertisements. Would it upset players being naked in the changing room together? What about the after-hours highly homoerotic activities - indulging in football threesomes and roastings? Would football culture ever be the same again? I can't imagine it would be possible for a 17-year-old to come out, no matter how good he was. The protective bubble of success wouldn't be there. You'd have to prove yourself first before you could be openly gay and still be accepted.
Down the years I could easily have been accused of being gay. I was a bit different - I modelled for Giorgio Armani, sparking rumours over which designers wanted to get into my pants; I practised yoga; I read, I paint. I've been to The Boardwalk - a gay club in Manchester - although I was with my wife at the time, and I've even driven past the local gay dogging spot in Devon - there were a couple of guys in tight black shorts and vests looking like Village People try-outs. I have a number of gay friends and although they wouldn't want me shouting from the rooftops about their sexuality, I'd like to encourage them to come out. I accept that it's easy for me to say that, but how many more years will it be before we can talk openly about gay men playing professional football? ... It'll still take some sort of new age hero to be the first to come out, but I just hope, for football's sake, that it happens soon.