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Watford striker Troy Deeney says there is probably one gay or bisexual player in each team

Watford captain Troy Deeney insists health must come before football
Image: Watford captain Troy Deeney thinks having an out professional male footballer would help others

Watford captain Troy Deeney believes there is probably one gay or bisexual player in every football team and says "there is now a bigger platform than ever" to be out as a professional athlete.

While several current top women players who are lesbian or bisexual are out, there has still yet to be a high-profile gay or bi equivalent among their male counterparts.

Former Aston Villa and Germany midfielder Thomas Hitzlsperger first spoke publicly of being a gay man in football in 2014 following his retirement.

The late Justin Fashanu came out in 1990 while between clubs, and went on to play league football in both England and Scotland.

Justin Fashanu, Norwich
Image: Former Norwich and Nottingham Forest striker Justin Fashanu is Britain's first and only out gay male professional footballer

Talking on the BBC Podcast, Grounded with Louis Theroux, Deeney said: "I would go on record saying that there is probably one gay or bi person in every football team. They're there, they are 100 per cent there.

"I think people that are gay or from that community definitely are very worried about having to shoulder the responsibility of being the first. I think once the first comes out, there would be loads.

"If they came out and said it, I genuinely believe you would get, in the first week, at least 100 people that went 'me too'. Just because they don't want to be the face of it."

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Deeney, who returned to action for Watford in a friendly on Saturday ahead of the Premier League return, added: "I think there is now a bigger platform than ever to be a gay athlete of any nature.

"I also wonder why people finish football, rugby, whatever the sport it might be, and then go 'I am gay'. I feel like it must be a real heavy load to carry throughout all your whole sporting career."

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LGBT campaign group Stonewall says it would welcome talking with Deeney about how a more "accepting environment" could be created for athletes.

"There's still work to do to make all levels of sport truly inclusive of LGBT people, and we'd love to chat with Troy Deeney about creating a more accepting environment for gay and bi male professional football players," said Stonewall director of sport Robbie de Santos.

"It's important that we all avoid speculating about players' sexual orientation, as this can spark a frenzy of people trying to guess who these players might be.

"No one should feel pressured to come out. To help make sure everyone feels free to be themselves in football, it's vital that allies - as fans, players, clubs and leading organisations - come out in support of LGBT rights and make sport a more accepting environment for all LGBT people.

"The more support there is, the easier it will become for athletes to be open about their sexuality. That's why our Rainbow Laces campaign focuses on getting more people to be visible and fierce supporters of LGBT equality in sport.

"We've seen real progress from across the football community as a whole to creating and championing an inclusive culture for all LGBT people. Our work won't be finished until all LGBT people, from fans to players alike, are accepted without exception."

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