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National League player reveals homophobia during match made him think of quitting football

National League South player Ruaridh Donaldson reveals homophobia during a match made him think of quitting football.

The incident took place when his then side Hampton & Richmond played at Tonbridge Angels, with a shout aimed at him while defending a corner.

Now he has spoken publicly for the first time about what happened, how it made him feel, and LGBTQ+ rights in men’s football.

Ruaridh Donaldson tweeted a link to his chat, saying: “Please read Laura Howard @laura_hwd ’s award winning piece on my experience of homophobia in men’s football.”

Donaldson said, per Sports Media LGBT+: “A fan picked me out, he was maybe three or four metres away from me, and he used a homophobic slur right in my face. It was absolutely abhorrent. It was really shocking,” reflects Donaldson.

“On the drive home from that game, I phoned my partner and my brother. I was really struggling with whether I should continue playing football. It was as impactful as that. I was really, really shocked by the overt nature of it.

“For someone who is not LGBTQ+, but is an ally, it had an enormous impact on me. Going through that process, it was not really taken seriously by the FA or by the referee on the day.”

Every game he plays, he shows support to Stonewall’s campaign and the LGBTQ+ community by wearing rainbow laces.

“I felt it was critical to show overt support for the [Rainbow Laces] campaign. If that has a positive impact on one person who’s come to watch me over the last two years, I’d be happy,” he says.

“There’s institutionalised homophobia and institutionalised sexism within male football. Rather than the specific changing rooms cultivating homophobia, I think that the structure means that people don’t feel as though they are empowered to come out.

“The culture has been one of silence. That silence is maintaining the status quo. Unless you are actively vocal in your support of political campaigns, then you are not going to influence positive change.

“Instead, you’re going to entrench the existing position and the existing position is wrong. I don’t want there to be no out male professional footballers at the top level.

“I feel that in most changing rooms that I’ve been in, should an individual come out as gay, then that decision in itself would be widely supported.

“You’d be surprised by the extent to which we have political-based conversations in the football changing room. Whether it’s on the bus down to Torquay or whatever, the guys are interested.

“More and more footballers are understanding their role in society and the opportunity that they have to positively influence change.

“If they see me reading a particular book, they might ask me about it. Often guys will just pose broad questions at me and try and understand what my viewpoint on that is.

“There have been core issues that everyone in the country has been exposed to and involved in. Everyone is experiencing the cost-of-living crisis, so that is felt acutely by people in the football changing room.

“Some guys will glaze over, for sure, but you know which ones to engage with. I choose my moments wisely.”

Credit to Ruaridh Donaldson for sharing his experience, his thoughts, and being a voice to help others while also giving players a better understanding, on and off the pitch.

You can read more stories like this, including Three Lions Pride speaking ahead of Euro 2024, by clicking HERE. Well worth a read.

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