In Russell Tovey‘s new film The Pass, he plays a closeted footballer struggling to come to terms with who he really is, haunted by the night he kissed a teammate.
“Being gay is not an option,” his character says in one scene.
In the real world of Premier League football, the situation is the same, if perhaps slightly less cinematic. While players have indeed come out — most famously Justin Fashanu, who tragically took his own life in 1998, and Robbie Rogers, who came out after he’d left the league to play in America — no current League player has ever revealed publicly that he’s gay.
On the prospect of a footballer coming out, Tovey told the Evening Standard: “I hope it happens within the next few years, it just takes one person to be brave enough to do it. Apparently there is a big sponsorship deal for the first big Premier League player to come out, a multi-million pound deal, but no one has picked it up yet.
“They are going to be elevated to some level beyond what they are doing in sport and if you are the first person to do that then it is a terrifying prospect because of the attention that is going to get. Football crowds are so tribal, it’s gladiatorial, and they seize on any weakness their opponents show and sadly in football being gay is still seen as a weakness.”
Every promo shot we’ve seen of The Pass shows Tovey and costar Arinze Kene in their underwear, so at the very least it should make some closeted footballers that much more conflicted. We aren’t complaining.
The film has its premiere in London this week, kicking off BFI Flare: London LGBT Film Festival.