Ryan Atkin reveals positive response to becoming the first openly gay official in English football
By Rory O'Callaghan
Last Updated: 21/08/17 10:08pm
Ryan Atkin says he has received a positive response from the world of football after becoming the sport's first openly gay professional official in England.
The 32-year-old, who has officiated at Championship level, chose to come out publicly earlier this month in order to help create an "inclusive environment" for other LGBT players, officials and supporters.
Ryan Atkin: Referees and Rainbow Laces
Read Atkin's story, which he shared with Sky Sports to help make football more inclusive...
His decision was described as an "important moment" by the Football Association's Head of Senior Referee Development Neale Barry and Atkin has stressed how important it is for him to be judged professionally rather than by his sexuality.
"I really believe the game needs to be more inclusive," Atkin told Sky Sports News. "People will shout homophobic remarks from the stands. I just don't think that's right.
"Remarks that are of a racist nature are no longer acceptable in society and should never have been acceptable, so why should homophobic remarks be acceptable?
"It is not important to be gay, it is important for me to referee a game to the best of my ability but don't judge me on my sexuality, and I think that's the same for players, ground staff, whoever is involved - judge them on their profession and not their sexuality.
"I think the work that's going on with the Football Association, the Premier League, the Football League and Stonewall is really important about creating an inclusive environment and a support network for anybody that does choose to share their personal life."
While he has received a positive response at home, Atkin has also received messages of support from abroad - including countries with strict anti-gay laws.
"It's been so positive," said Atkin. "So many people have been in contact from around the world, especially from countries where being gay is not legal.
"Places like Russia and Qatar, places where the World Cup is going to go, I think it's really positive to know there are people in those countries who enjoy sport and are LGBT."