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The Debate: Why a player coming out is not main aim of Rainbow Laces

Referee Ryan Atkin, West Ham's Head of Player Care, Hugo Scheckter, and regular guest Liam Rosenior discuss Rainbow Laces and LGBT inclusion in football

The Debate Rainbow Laces special

On a special episode of The Debate, the panel explained why Rainbow Laces is not all about seeing a footballer one day come out as gay.

Throughout this week, the world of football is supporting the Stonewall initiative which aims to 'make sport everyone's game' by raising awareness of LGBT inclusion.

Host Geoff Shreeves welcomed Debate regular Liam Rosenior, openly gay referee Ryan Atkin and West Ham's Head of Player Care Hugo Scheckter, who came out in 2016 while working at Southampton, to discuss some of the issues raised by the campaign - including why there are no openly gay players in professional English football.

LISTEN: The Debate podcast

Atkin insisted that is not the point of the campaign.

"The whole ethos of Rainbow Laces is not about a player coming out," he said.

"It's about trying to challenge people within sport to recognise their behaviour within the sporting environment and when they walk through the turnstile, to engage their brain a little bit more and understand what they are saying and the impact it can have on not only adults, but young children.

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"A lot of parents go to football with children and they use a wide amount of language. It would always be interesting to question the parent who stays at home if they knew the language [the other parent] was using in front of their young children at a football game."

Former Brighton and Hull player Rosenior says he understands why professional players would not want the added scrutiny of discussing their sexuality in public.

He said: "You have to be very brave just to be a footballer, to be in the public eye, and to make a mistake in front of 50,000 people, or 10m people watching [on TV].

"If any player feels even more added pressure on top of that due to something that's got nothing to do with football, then I can understand why a footballer wouldn't want to cause that extra pressure upon themselves.

"We still live in a society where, whether we like it or not, if a top-level footballer comes out, there would be more media scrutiny on that player.

"I think that's just a natural occurrence of where we are."

The Debate: Rainbow Laces Special is on Sky Sports throughout Thursday and is available to download as a podcast.

Sky Sports is a member of TeamPride and supports Stonewall's Rainbow Laces campaign, which is currently receiving its annual activation across British sport until December 7.

Contact us at Sky Sports if you'd like to share a story to help raise awareness around LGBT inclusion.

Rainbow Laces, Stonewall poster, campaign activation 2018
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