Jake Daniels coming out will have ‘domino effect’, says inclusion expert

·3 min read
  • PFA’s Simone Pound believes more male footballers will follow

  • Pound involved in lead-up to Blackpool player’s announcement

Jake Daniels’s decision to come out as gay promises a domino effect that will allow more men in professional football to be open about their sexuality, according to a figure involved in the process that led to the Blackpool player’s announcement.

Simone Pound, who has worked for more than 20 years on issues of inclusion in football, believes the moment may finally have arrived when men’s football ends a historic taboo.

Related: Thanks for your leadership, Jake Daniels: a gay man and professional footballer | Barney Ronay

Daniels is the UK’s first active male professional footballer to be open about his homosexuality since Justin Fashanu in 1990. The 17-year-old has received widespread support from the world of football and beyond after he chose to come out on Monday, saying he was “ready to tell my story” and also to act as a role model who could “help others come out” if they wanted to.

Pound is also encouraged by the decisions of Thomas Beattie, a former Hull academy midfielder who played in the US, Canada and Singapore, and the Australian footballer Josh Cavallo to come out in recent years.

“I do think there will be a domino effect; it’s already started,” said Pound, the director of equality, diversity and inclusion at the Professional Footballers’ Association. “It began when Thomas Beattie came out in 2020. Thomas, Josh Cavallo and now Jake: one man has come out every year since. So we can see the positive impact it can have when people come forward and are visible.”

Daniels is set to take a brief holiday after an announcement that was months in the planning. The process, described as player-led, involved a number of stakeholders including the PFA and the LGBTQ+ rights group Stonewall. It was seen by those involved as a success and a model which can be repeated to help other players. There is hope that Daniels may be a harbinger of a new era.

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“I think there’s certainly a generational aspect to what is happening,” Pound says. “When you look at the responses to Jake’s interview, a lot of the comments say: ‘Why is this a thing?’ Those of us who work in diversity and equality have long talked about creating a ‘so what?’ culture and it appears there’s a lot of people out there who feel like that now. But you can see from the reaction to Jake’s announcement that it means a huge amount to so many people.”

Pound believes that this generation may also benefit from the years of work in bringing anti-discrimination to the fore in football. “When we talk about the possibility of abuse I feel strongly that we have moved into an era where it can be dealt with,” Pound says. “We have strong sanctions for in-stadium abuse and work closely with police. Hopefully we can go further on social media protections too.”

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