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Coming out had me worried for my job, says top English footballer

Category: Blogger's Corner, LGBT, blog, sport, gay, lesbian, challenge, managing, team manager, former, England team, flight team, disclosing

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Casey Stoney takes over this week as the Manchester United women’s team manager. The former Liverpool and England team player says she relishes the challenge of managing a top flight team, but she once thought disclosing her lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) status would ruin her career.

"It was the fear of judgement from everybody else," adds Stoney. "As a player, as a footballer, you get judged every day. What do you look like, how do you play, how do you perform, what's your diet like - you're judged on everything.” She explains, “That was the part of my life that I was most frightened of being judged on.”

And it’s no surprise she worried for her job. More than one in three LGBT workers told a recent survey they had been harassed or bullied at work. Casey was lucky. She found the women’s footballing environment warm and supportive. But her story is still important. Especially when no male professional footballer has declared an LGBT status while actively playing in the last 27 years. 

LGBT issues in football

The World Cup kicks off in Russia next week but Casey won’t be visiting. “I won’t be going to Russia or Qatar (the site for the 2022 championship) to watch a World Cup because I wouldn’t be accepted there,” Stoney has said previously.  “I think it’s incredible that these countries get World Cups and Olympics when they don’t accept everybody to go there and be part of it.”

In this environment, Stoney fully understands the importance of speaking in the public eye about the fears and barriers she has faced. "I decided to make the move because I was England captain at the time. I had a profile that I felt I could use in a really positive way,” she says.

"I'm sure there are gay players in the male game. Some of them might not feel the necessity to come out, but I still think there's a huge fear of the reaction of homophobic abuse that would come from the stands," she continues. And she’s not alone in using her public platform, and her passion for football, to raise awareness of the challenges of LGBT persons around the world.

Campaigners from Pride in Football (PiF), the UK association of LGBT fans across all leagues, will be heading out to Russia this month. And their team of two has received huge support from the Russian LGBT community. "We've heard that from many non-LGBT Russians too,” says activist Joe White. “A crucial part of our trip is to show solidarity and help however we can."

At VERCIDA, we share Joe’s commitment to supporting articulate and useful conversation about civil liberties. And want to support highly successful people like Casey to speak about their own identity without fearing for their career. Discover our new approach to job search here.

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VERCIDA works with over one hundred clients who are committed to creating an inclusive work environment. If you are an employer and interested in working with VERCIDA to promote your diversity and inclusion initiatives and attract the best candidates, please email [email protected] for more information.

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