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Feb 7, 2012

Le Saux: Gay players need more support

Former Chelsea captain Grame Le Saux believes the support available for gay players must be improved and a more accepting environment created in English football.

Le Saux, 43, endured years of taunts from opposition fans and even other players about his sexuality despite being heterosexual, blaming the rumours and abuse on his desire to distance himself from the typical 'footballer's lifestyle'.

The years of jibes came to a head in 1999, when he reacted to provocative comments from England team-mate Robbie Fowler by elbowing him in the head. Both players were reprimanded by the Football Association for the incident at the time.

There have been no openly gay footballers in England since former Norwich and Nottingham Forest forward Justin Fashanu, who came out in 1990 but went on to tragically commit suicide in 1998.

And Le Saux feels that more must be done to improve tolerance of sexuality in the game.

"The important thing isn't whether or not there are gay players in professional football," Le Saux told BBC Radio Jersey . "The point is that the environment is such that if they are, they feel that they can achieve and the profession will support them."

"At the moment I still don't think that's there. I think ultimately it's up to football to really face those demons and actually say 'we're going to stand up for people, whatever their colour, creed or sexuality' and actually give them the opportunity to say 'if I want to be a football player I'm confident enough to try'."

The clash with Fowler 13 years ago was one of the lowest points of Le Saux's career and he insists it only served to heighten the abuse he received.

"It was humiliating on many levels because it was a culmination of many years of abuse that I'd had," he said. "For an England colleague and a fellow professional footballer to actually endorse with his behaviour rumours that were spread about me was utterly offensive.

"I spoke to Robbie about it afterwards when we met up with England and he never apologised, not even privately."