Leeann Dempster, the chief executive of Hibernian FC made the comments in an interview with the BBC.
The chief executive of Hibernian FC, Leeann Dempster, has told the BBC that she believes Scottish football is “ready” for an openly gay player. Dempster herself is a lesbian and has been in a civil partnership since 2007.
“I am so proud to be from Scotland because I think it is one of the most progressive countries,” she said.
“You are always going to get people who revert – you are never going to get rid of these people. But the vast majority, because of things like equal marriage and the progressive laws here, would be fine.
“There are obviously gay footballers, many of them. One in 10 of the population [is gay], something like that. Well, there are 11 players on the field…”
Leeann acknowledged there would be “a few bumps” for a player who wished to come out, adding: “It would be brave.”
Drawing from her own personal experience, she said: “I’ve not really talked about it in the media but recently we lost someone and it made me think about my responsibility as someone who has exposure.
“There will be people out there finding it difficult reconciling what they are feeling and it’s incumbent on people like me to say ‘follow your instinct and trust in civic society because most folk are good’.”
Speaking about Leeann’s comments on BBC Radio Scotland, Hugh Torrance, the executive director of LEAP Scotland, said: “It’s important to remember we’re talking about the men’s professional game. We already have many ‘out’ players in the women’s game and at grassroots levels across the country.
“Coming out is a very personal experience. As Leanne says, there are still likely to be a ‘few bumps along the road’ and this is untested as we haven’t had a player come out yet.
“It’s difficult to know if some of the barriers to this are real or are they perceptions but the research continues to show that the high majority of people still believe there is still an issue with homophobia in sport which is higher in football.”
In the UK, Justin Fashanu has been the only openly gay football player in higher levels. However he faced a huge amount of abuse before his suicide in 1998.
There are mixed answers when it comes to whether football is ready for an openly gay player. Last week, Ryan Atkin, England’s first openly gay football referee said he believed that football was ready.
Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, he said: “But we are also in a place now where if an individual chose to come out, he would probably get the biggest amount of support not only from fans, but from the media, and from football itself.”
However, in 2017, the chairman of the Football Association, Greg Clarke, said we were “decades off” of having an openly gay player in the Premier League.
“I have had conversations with the PFA and the LMA on this issue, and we have talked about how we can encourage professional footballers who want to come out to come out in a safe space,” Greg said at Stonewall’s Rainbow Laces summit at Old Trafford in Manchester.
“We are trying to engage with them, to talk to them. But to be perfectly frank, they are reticent to engage with me.”
Professional players Olivier Giroud and Héctor Bellerín have also voiced concerns that football is not yet ready for an LGBTQ player, with Bellerín noting how fans had hurled homophobic slurs at him simply because he had long hair.