Patrice Evra claims some West Ham players refused to shower with gay footballers, at a time of trying to make football a game for everyone.
The former France international has claimed that a number of Hammers players said that they wouldn’t shower in the same changing room if there was a gay team-mate using it at the same time, during his short stint at the club in 2018.
Evra said to the Mid Point podcast, hosted by Gabby Logan, that a Football Association official came to the club to give a talk focused on inclusion and several players at the club were far from accepting.
“It’s like you can’t be gay in football [as] a player, people will go mad,” he said. “I give the example, when I was playing for West Ham, someone from the English federation came and he said ‘we need to accept everyone’ and [the] amount of players that were like ‘no, if some of my team mates are gay they have to leave now, I won’t do any shower [with them]’.
“I stand up and I say ‘shut up, shut up everyone, can you hear yourselves?’ We were in  at the time and we still don’t accept everyone. In the football world they are not open minded enough and it’s a shame.”
He previously said that he thinks there are at least two gay players in every dressing room but wouldn’t go public about their sexuality because of fears of a backlash.
The former Manchester United player, who retired as a free agent a year after leaving West Ham, has also said that gay players have opened up to him privately.
He added: “I understand because even myself when the [gay] players they were coming to me I was like, be careful because if you say [it] loud you see the reaction of all the players but I will support you and because I had such a power in the dressing room I will protect [you], I will support you.”
Evra’s admission comes despite West Ham United having no knowledge of an incident taking place or of Evra flagging any comments at the time.
The club was awarded with the Premier League’s Equality Standard Advanced level accolade in 2021.
The only openly gay player currently playing in a top flight in the world is 22 year old Australian player Josh Cavallo who came out in October to widespread praise but it took just two months later for the abuse to begin, aimed by supporters when playing for Adelaide United away to Melbourne Victory.
“I’m not going to pretend that I didn’t see or hear the homophobic abuse at the game last night,” Cavallo wrote on Instagram. “There are no words to tell you how disappointed I was. As a society this shows we still face these problems in 2022.
“This shouldn’t be acceptable and we need to do more to hold this [sic] people accountable. Hate never will win. I will never apologise for living my truth and most recently who I am outside of football.”
Cavallo also said he was targeted after the game on Instagram and used his own post to call out the social media platform for not doing enough to prevent homophobic abuse.
“To Instagram I don’t want any child or adult to have to receive the hateful and hurtful messages that I’ve received,” he said. “I knew truly being who I am that I was going to come across this. It’s a sad reality that your platforms are not doing enough to stop these messages.”
He also had a message for others, specifically young people, who had also suffered the same type of abuse as he did, telling them to “hold your heads up high and keep chasing your dreams”.
Racism and homophobia is said to be on the rise in football, according to a Kick It Out report.
It claims that there had been a “steep rise” in the levels of discrimination around English football, with there being a 42% increase in reports of discrimination during the 2019/20 season at both a professional and grassroots level, from 313 to 446.
This includes a 53% increase in reports of racial abuse and a 95% rise in reports of abuse based on sexual orientation.
Meanwhile, the CPS and FA have been given the all-clear to take action over ‘rent boy’ chants that have been sung at matches, mainly towards Chelsea owned players.
The Crown Prosecution Service have warned that they will take criminal action against supporters who use the homophobic “rent boy” chant, paving the way for the Football Association to sanction individual clubs.
The FA have repeatedly claimed they are powerless to launch disciplinary sanctions against clubs because they believe that the “rent boy” term had not been deemed discriminatory by the CPS and so the police haven’t taken criminal action against individual fans.
The CPS, however, have confirmed to Telegraph Sport that they do regard the term “rent boy” as a homophobic slur which amounts to a hate crime.
A CPS spokesperson told The Telegraph: “The CPS continues to take racist and homophobic chanting at football matches extremely seriously and is working closely the FA, football clubs and charities to drive this hideous behaviour out of the game.
“The impact on groups attacked by this type of mob behaviour can be devastating. We will not hesitate to prosecute anyone of these actions where there is sufficient evidence to do so.”
Kick it Out say they have noticed a rise in complaints over the “rent boy” term this season, saying that “it is unquestionably homophobic and extremely offensive to the LGBTQ+ community, who make up such an important part of our game”.
Speaking last August, Edleen John, the FA’s equality, diversity and inclusion director, said that the “rent boy” insult was on the “same level” as racism.
“It’s really negative, it’s not welcoming, it doesn’t create a sense of belonging, and frankly it’s disgusting,” she said.
“What we have to do is get to a place where the police and CPS systems view it in that same way so that the actions can be taken that we want to see across football and more broadly.”