English Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore says gay footballers would be treated with respect and would be shown no hostility if they were to go public about their sexuality.
“The environment would be entirely suitable for them to come out,” he told BBC Newsnight.
“It would be welcomed and I think there would be a tolerance to it. I think the time would be right to do that.”
The interview with the boss of England’s top flight comes in the wake of reports from the Daily Mirror last month, which reported that two Premier League footballers – including one England international – were on the verge of “coming out” with the support of their clubs.
Scudamore added he was “absolutely sure” there were gay players in the league, saying: “It would be very strange if there wasn’t.”
Last year Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said that it was unlikely a player would come out during their career because of the constant media scrutiny they would face.
“Because of media interest, maybe no one will come out,” said Wenger in May 2014.
“He could not come out during his career which means we still have some progress to make in our game.”
On being asked about Scudamore’s comments Wenger said, “I believe when you watch a football player you don’t know, you don’t want to know what his sexuality is. What you want to see is a football player, no matter what he is in his private life.
“It has become more tolerant towards that situation. I wouldn’t like to say it’s perfect, but certainly better than 10 years ago.”
Ex-Norwich City and Nottingham Forest forward Justin Fashanu was the last openly gay player in the English game who publicly stated about his sexuality in 1990. At that time, he faced verbal abuse from colleagues and fans, while being accused of sexual assault in the United States.
Fashanu tragically took his own life in 1998, aged just 37. He was recently accused of just “wanting attention” by brother and fellow footballer John Fashanu.
Former Aston Villa, West Ham, and Everton midfielder Thomas Hitzlsperger announced he is gay in 2014, after retiring from the game the previous year. He was, however, left “overwhelmed” by the positive response he received in disclosing his homosexuality.
Gay players have comfortably revealed their sexuality in other sports in Britain; with Olympic diver Tom Daley and former rugby union star Gareth Thomas among the most high-profile.