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David Gough Believes Elite Irish Sports Stars Are Afraid To Say They're Gay

David Gough Believes Elite Irish Sports Stars Are Afraid To Say They're Gay

David Gough believes there are many elite Irish sportspeople who are still apprehensive about saying that they are gay.

Gough, one of the GAA's top football referees, came out as gay in 2015, and said his experience since then has very positive.

"They are a huge amount of people, not only inside the GAA, but in elite sport in Ireland that are afraid to come out," the Meathman told Virgin Media's The Tonight Show.

"You only have to look at 64 inter-county teams, League of Ireland, we have an awful lot of international players playing in the Premiership, we have four provincial rugby teams, hockey, equestrianism, boxing... We could name a number of sports here, and there are not elite gay male athletes coming out in those sports.

"The question needs to be asked: Why? Why are they struggling and what are the issues? What are the barriers that are stopping them coming out?

"I have received nothing but huge support from my own colleagues on the refereeing panel [since I came out]. I've found the media nothing more than positive, certainly in this country.

"My life has been positively enhanced since I came out. I haven't taken one step backwards. I've achieved everything that I wanted to achieve inside Gaelic games, and my sexuality never stood in the way. I'm happy to say now that I'm David Gough the referee, and not David Gough the gay referee.

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"I can't see any major barriers, just perceived barriers. That's what I feel the issue might be."

Gough said that along with there being greater visibility of LGBTQ athletes, straight athletes need to show that their sports are accepting.

"That's only 10 per cent of the athletes in the country [who are gay]," he said.

"There's 90 per cent of the athletes playing who are straight. What sort of environment have they created that make people feel unsafe in coming out?

"The silence from that side of the house is deafening. They need to create opportunities themselves to show that they are allies, and that coming out in their sport is totally acceptable.

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"A lot of young males drop out of sport very early on - particularly team sports - because they find the environment intimidating, and they find they don't fit in."

On Monday, Carl Nassib of the Las Vegas Raiders became the first active NFL player to announce that he is gay, a moment Gough said is "huge".

"Won't it be great when we get to a time when this isn't newsworthy," he said.

"The reason it is newsworthy is because nobody has gone before him. If you are a role model, you increase visibility. His invisibility will increase inclusion. By being gay, and open, by living his life as a true person inside his probably very difficult sport, that for children growing up in America is going to make a huge impression."

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Gough also addressed the only occasion on which he has received homophobic abuse while refereeing a game. That was while walking off the pitch during the 2016 All-Ireland semi-final between Dublin and Kerry.

"It only happened once in an unfortunate situation in an All-Ireland semi-final in 2016 where I made a high profile mistake that I didn't know I'd made," said Gough.

"Leaving the field, there was some homophobic abuse from the stand; that was a bit disappointing. It was frightening, and I'd never experienced it before, so I just put my head down and tried to get off the field as quick as possible.

"The frightening thing for me was that my family of umpires was with me, and they possibly had never heard homophobic slurs or language like that before. It took me a little bit of time to get my thoughts together around it, and to get back out refereeing again."

Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile


See Also: Kerry Players Knew Gig Was Up After 1987 San Francisco Training Session

david gough gay elite sportspeople ireland

PJ Browne
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