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Roker Ramble: Football needs a gay mega-star!

Rainbow laces were okay, but what we need is a Spartacus moment if we're going to bring the game into the real world.

Portugal v Brazil: Group G - 2010 FIFA World Cup Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images

Ronaldo – isn’t he gorgeous? Isn’t he the most stunning example of male flesh that you’ve ever seen? Super fit, perfect teeth, winning smile, tanned body with rippling muscles including the obligatory six pack, hell, couldn’t you just jump him right now?

And, again, this year, he’s officially the best footballer in the world. Twice. He won the Ballon D’Or just before Xmas, which used to be the ‘FIFA’ Ballon D’Or, until FIFA decided they didn’t like it any more and invented a new award – ‘The Best FIFA Football Awards’, and guess what – Ronny just went and won that as well.

The man transcends the sport. He's a colossus - if he was in ancient Greece he’d be on more vases than the vestal virgins and worshipped as a God. He has his own museum, his own clothing range, his own range of toiletries - he's an adonis. This year he’s won the Champions League, Euro 2016, the Club World Cup and probably the Christmas raffle on the club’s night out.

Right now he’s one of the most famous and recognisable people on the planet.

Can you imagine how brilliant and impactful it would be if someone with that level of profile and celebrity within the game came out as openly gay?

At present there are no openly gay footballers in English professional football, which is both a shocking and sad indictment of the state of the sport. And you don’t have to look far to understand the reason why – the risk of verbal abuse from fans both in the grounds and on social media is a powerful force preventing such openness.

And, you could argue, the authorities are not exactly pulling all the stops out to help the situation.

The Football Association chairman Greg Clarke, said he has been talking to gay footballers and has suggested the idea of a group of footballers coming out 'together' to ‘lessen the impact’.

The Premier League, the Football League and the FA could do it at the start of the season. At the start of the season everybody thinks it is their season, the crowds are happy, the sun is shining. I was asked [recently] if football is ready for top-level pros to come out and I said I’m not sure we were.

So, if the Association isn’t sure that it’s safe for you to come out, what support do you think you’re going to get? And there was further discouragement from perhaps a surprising source – gay football fans, a spokesman for whom agreed that the ‘time wasn’t right for a player to come out’.

Just about everyone that I know, knows openly gay people - at work, at home, in social circles, perhaps at football, and these are not people who I think are going to show anything but respect for a professional to come out and admit he’s gay. At the end of the day it’s the football that matters, not their sexuality.

But of course these people are not the issue. We’re all aware of the minority who would cause a problem, but should we allow them to continually dictate the agenda in this situation? Because the argument has nothing to do with gay footballers, but everything to do with creating an environment where it really doesn’t matter.

Football faced the same problem with racism forty years ago and that problem has been tackled in a coordinated manner by the clubs, players, the media, associations and the law, and whilst it’s by no means completely eradicated, the situation has improved to the point where outright discrimination seems reserved for the furthest reaches of the Europa League.

A coordinated approach has to be the answer for gay discrimination in football. It has to be enforced by all parties on an ongoing basis and with the structure in place before a player will come out. It’s a complete waste of time to suggest a few players come out at the start of the season. Gay discrimination is against the law in the same way as racial discrimination and exactly the same methods should be used to confront and eliminate it.

Then of course we’ll need someone with the courage to stand up and be the first. And as much as I thought the rainbow laces was a start, it really is a drop in the ocean, forgotten a week later.

It’s going to take the bravery of a high profile, extraordinary individual to come out and end gay discrimination - if and when that happens, the issue will be killed stone dead overnight.