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Ryan Atkin becomes first professional English soccer referee to come out as gay

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‘People don't shout at you any louder because of your sexuality,’ Atkin said.

Ryan Atkin has broken through the media’s messages of fear and found the incredible power of living life openly.
Sky Sports

Professional soccer referee Ryan Atkin has come out publicly as gay in an interview with Sky Sports. Atkin said in the interview he has come out so people around him, and in particular his parents, can be complete parts of his life.

“One of the key things for me I think was having to lie to my parents about what I was doing,” Atkin said. The 32-year-old said he’s known he was gay since he was 21. “So they missed out on a large chunk of my life because I wasn’t willing to accept who I was.”

Thankfully Atkin doesn’t buy into the nonsense about gay people on the pitch suddenly being subjected to a torrent of abuse from fans.

“People don't shout at you any louder because of your sexuality,” he told Sky Sports. “They shout at you because they're not happy with a decision, or they believe a decision should have gone their way. But I don't think my sexuality will be a reason for people to shout at me more.”

The truth is, fans yell terrible things at opposing teams and referees all the time. A gay player, coach or referee will continue to get yelled at. Sadly, English soccer allows fans to chant anti-gay messages, which they are already doing regardless of knowing who’s gay and who isn’t. Atkin sees through the hype to this reality, which is empowering for him.

Atkin is doing this with the full backing of the Football Association.

"Ryan's declaration marks an important moment in the game and reinforces the fact that refereeing really is open to everyone,” Neale Barry, Head of Senior Referee Development at The Football Association, told SkySports. “He's stated that people who are happy in their own skin perform better - and I couldn't agree more."

Only a handful of elite-level officials have come out publicly as gay, including Pac-12 football referee Steve Strimling, the NBA’s Bill Kennedy, and MLB umpires Dave Pallone and Dale Scott.