By Peter Mann
English international footballer, Matt Jarvis, winger for West Ham United, appears on this month’s cover of the United Kingdom’s bestselling gay magazine, “Attitude.” Jarvis, who is straight and married, hopes to support LGBT athletes and encourage closeted footballers to come out. He is the third footballer to shed his gear for the magazine, behind David Beckham in 2002 and Freddie Ljungberg in 2006.
The accompanying title to his cover reads, "West Ham player Matt Jarvis tackles sport's biggest taboo. Why it's time for gay footballers to be accepted."
Jarvis, 26, said that it was time that a gay footballer felt comfortable enough to come out to their peers and fans. In his interview published in “Attitude,” Jarvis said that he believes that homosexuality is not something to be ashamed of, and that it is a part of “everyday life.”
“I'm sure there are many footballers who are gay, but when they decide to actually come out and say it, it is a different story,” he said. “It's one that I'm sure they've thought about many times. But it's a hard thing for them to do.”
The stigma of homosexuality in the sport is an evolving thing, with progress made over the last two decades. In 1990, Justin Fashanu, the first black £1m footballer, of Norwich, Nottingham Forest and Hearts, suffered verbal abuse after coming out; killing himself eight years later, according to The Guardian.
However, a recent study by the University of Staffordshire suggested that a mass majority of fans would be tolerant of players coming out, with 40% of fans placing blame on clubs and agents for keeping gay footballers in the closet.
Jarvis also believes that if a gay footballer let go of their inhibitions, they might actually play better.
“…Because you've always got something you're worried about at the back of your mind,” said Jarvis. “If you can let that go and then just concentrate on your one goal, which is whichever sport you're doing to the best of your ability, I think that would help. Definitely.”