Gareth Thomas of Crusaders in action during the Engage Super League Match between Crusaders RL and Salford City Reds at Millennium Stadium on February 13, 2011 in Cardiff, Wales. (Stu Forster/Getty)
Rugby player Gareth Thomas has revealed that he made contact with a gay footballer who is in the closet.
Thomas, who is one of the UK’s best-known LGBT+ sport role models, told the Daily Star that he had a private phone call with a player who grappled with whether to come forward.
Gareth Thomas ‘offered support’ to closeted footballer
He said: “Away from the cameras, I reached out to him and offered him my support and gave him my number and he called me.
“I never asked him his name but he told me the club he played for.
“He is a young kid who had an understanding of who he was but didn’t have an understanding of where he fitted in.”
He added: “There is vitriol towards him because he has decided that he is not ready for it. But it is his decision to make.”
Thomas has made a new documentary about homophobia in sport, Gareth Thomas v Homophobia: The Legacy, which is set to air next Thursday.
Anonymous Twitter account faces hoax claims
Thomas says he made contact with the player through anonymous Twitter account The Gay Footballer.
The owner of the account claimed to be a “professional player, currently playing in The Championship” who was planning to publicly come out as gay on July 24.
However, the announcement failed to materialise on the promised date, leading to speculation about whether the account was a hoax or a botched PR stunt.
The Twitter account was deleted, after posting the message: “I thought I was strong enough. I’m not.”
One of the final messages said: “Call me all the names under the sun, belittle me and ridicule me, a lot will, and I can’t change that, but I’m not strong enough to do this.
“Just remember that I’ve got feelings, without coming out I can’t convince anybody otherwise, but this isn’t a hoax. I wouldn’t do that.”
Justin Fashanu remains the only footballer to ever come out as gay while playing for a major English team.
Fashanu confirmed his sexuality in 1990, but struggled to cope with the pressures of tabloid attention and a backlash from fans. He eventually took his own life in 1998.