In sparking a conversation about changing the culture in Scottish football, Scottish referees Craig Napier and Lloyd Wilson both came out as gay last Thursday with the hope that their decision will inspire others in football to follow suit.

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Both referees have come out during Pride Month in a bid to send a message to other football figures. The decision for both referees is significant in drawing out the taboo nature of Scottish football where the sport has been known to have homophobic attitudes within clubs and amongst fans, despite generational progress.

Craig Napier, a Category one official, went public with his announcement in a video that was posted from the Scottish Football Association Twitter account.

People Should ‘Feel that They Can be Their True Self

In conversation with Scottish FA, Napier spoke of the importance of sharing this with the world because, “we need to see the climate change so that people do feel that they can be their true self and live happily and comfortably in their own skin.”

Napier became the first openly gay figure in Scottish football since late Hearts forward Justin Fashanu in the mid-1990s.

“It’s been really inspiring to see what happened recently, with Josh Cavallo and Jake Daniels”, said Napier. He praised Daniels coming out at 17 and suggested that people would hopefully take inspiration from that as well.

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Officiating in the Lowland League, Wilson spoke to mental health charity Back Onside and stated that the decision to reveal his sexuality after 17 years came from a journey of, “living a life that I didn’t want to live, living a lie, living the way that other people maybe wanted me to live or that I thought other people wanted me to live.” The years of hiding his true self was “probably dictated and directed in many ways by football”, Wilson added.

Wilson revealed that the fear of potential backlash from the public almost made him change his mind about coming out, but the reaction from the football community has cleared his worries. Wilson was supported by Crawford Allan, Head of Referee Operations at the Scottish FA, in the weeks leading up to the announcement, but he’s yet to wrap his head around the overwhelming public support.

“The reaction that I’ve had – I’m really shocked by. The reaction has been exceptional, I’ve not had one negative comment. That was what I was really fearing. I’m bracing myself that they may come, I’m not naive enough to think that something might not come.

“17 years of silence, 17 years of living a way that I haven’t wanted to live, you can only live like that for so long. I’ve got a partner of about a year, Hamish, who’s been an incredible support and incredible in encouraging this. So that’s why I’m doing this now.”

Wilson believes “good inroads” are being made as the game becomes more inclusive. In a similar vein, Napier asserted that the conversation about changing the culture in Scottish football was vital in terms of visibility.

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