A female soccer player who plays in England’s top league is coming out publicly after leaving her London club, and calls her time on the pitch a “safe haven.” The description illustrates the stark difference between the cultures in men’s and women’s soccer in the United Kingdom.
Goalkeeper Chloe Morgan, who’s one of the few female soccer players to enjoy the fruits of a full-time contract, came out recently in an interview with the BBC’s LGBT sports podcast. In it, the former Tottenham Hotspur goalie says the culture of the sport is inclusive and welcoming.
‘I think there’s generally quite a big understanding amongst women’s teams that there are generally members of the LGBTQ+ population within a lot of these teams,” she said. “It was always very well accepted, I never assumed any prejudice or discrimination of any sort.”
Morgan, 30, played five years of her career with the London club, Tottenham Hotspur. Over the weekend, she signed with Crystal Palace, who play in the Women’s Championship.
Her words contrast the women’s leagues with the men’s game, where there isn’t currently an active openly gay player in the U.K. There’s only been one publicly out gay soccer player in British history, Justin Fashanu. (Fashanu was inducted into the National Football Museum Hall of Fame earlier this year.)
Last month, Premier League captain Troy Deeney said he thinks there’s “probably” at least one gay or bisexual player on every club, and it would only take one player stepping forward to change the perception.
Still, in this regard, the women’s game remains far ahead of the men’s game — despite the gross disparities in funding. As an LGBTQ athlete, Morgan says the soccer field is her safe space.
“It did become a bit of a safe haven for me. I knew there were other members of the community who felt the same way that I did, [who I could] rely on to have my back if anything did happen,” she said. “‘It’s definitely been a weight off my mind to know the football community is a place where I don’t need to hide a certain part of myself.”
Correction: Chloe Morgan retired from her London team, and not the sport of soccer. A previous version said otherwise.