The macho football world is widely recognised as one of the most homophobic environments in Britain, with players terrified to come out and gay slurs often used by fans to insult opposing teams.

Now, a high-profile British Premiership football club, Manchester City, has become the first football club to officially be recognised as “gay friendly”.

The club has paid Stonewall, a gay rights organisation, up to four figures to join its list of gay-friendly companies and organisations.

Stonewall’s Diversity Champions scheme includes entities that have policies and procedures that offer support and equal rights and benefits to lesbians and gays, and recommends that Britain’s gay community spend its money with these companies. The scheme includes corporates and organisations such the BBC, Barclays, Nike and even the Royal Navy.

Manchester City already helps train the city’s gay amateur soccer team, supports gay organisations and advertises in the local gay media. The club has also trained its full and part time employees on sensitivity towards gays and lesbians.

Alistair Mackintosh, the club’s chief executive, was quoted by the Observer as saying that, “We want to send a welcoming message to gay, lesbian and bisexual supporters, be inclusive and be a progressive employer.”

Manchester City will work with Stonewall to further plan how they can make the club even more gay-friendly in areas such as fan education and employment

The Football Association has applauded the move. To date, only one British footballer, Justin Fashanu, has come out. He later committed suicide.

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