Swiss Super League referee, Pascal Erlachner, has spoken publicly about being gay for the first time.
Erlachner, 37, told the Swiss newspaper, Blick, he decided to come out because homosexuality in football is still a taboo, and he wants to create awareness around the issue.
“There are still many LGBT people being hushed up, especially in football. If a single footballer or referee can help or encourage someone, then coming out will be worthwhile” he explained.
Erlachner has refereed 73 Super League games, and 80 Challenge League games.
On coming out to his colleagues, he said:
“It is not a secret anymore. The referees in Super League, Challenge League and first league know, and it is nice for me to be able to talk about being gay openly with them, but there are others who don’t know.”
In August, Ryan Atkin became England’s first openly gay professional official, with the English Football Association welcoming the revelation as a landmark sign of progress.
Atkin, who officiates National League North and South, and also operates as a fourth official in Football League games, was recently a key figure in Stonewall’s Rainbow Laces campaign. But although he is happy to be a part of the campaign, he feels that there needs to be help from elsewhere to tackle homophobia in football.
The opinion is shared by the Spanish referee, Jesus Tomillero, who, in May 2016, retired from football and announced his sexuality at the same time, quitting football over ‘humiliating’ abuse.
In 2016, Jesus, 22, was subjected to a series of homophobic incidents, while officiating youth regional matches in Andalusia, which resulted in fines of €30 and €150 to the offenders.
Shortly after, Tomillero created the LGBT rights organisation, ROJADIRECTA Andalucía LGTBI, to help raise awareness of the problem in Spanish football, and provide support to those experiencing LGBT-phobia in the game.
He returned to football and officiating months later, but continues to be the subject of homophobic abuse and life-threats at matches, and on social media.