Leeds United LGBT supporters group Marching Out Together applaud landmark Blackpool striker Jake Daniels

Leeds United LGBTQ+ supporters group Marching Out Together have championed the response to Blackpool forward Jake Daniels coming out as gay

By Joe Donnohue
Tuesday, 17th May 2022, 4:45 pm

Leeds United were one of several clubs to throw their support behind 17-year-old Blackpool striker Jake Daniels on Monday evening.

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The Seasiders' forward took the landmark step to publicly come out as gay, becoming the first active male professional player in English football to do so since Justin Fashanu.

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With advice and assistance from his mum and sister, Blackpool FC, LGBT charity Stonewall UK and a platform from Sky Sports, Daniels was able to tell his own story, coming out on his own terms, in what could prove to be a sliding doors moment for the men's professional game in England.

“I am only 17 but I am clear that this is what I want to do and if, by me coming out, other people look at me and feel maybe they can do it as well, that would be brilliant," Daniels told Sky Sports.

Leeds United supporters group 'Marching Out Together' champion visibility and inclusivity for the LGBTQ+ community at Elland Road, and have proudly displayed their flag inside the stadium over the past couple of seasons.

Vice Chair of the group Maz Ferguson commended Daniels' courage: "It's massive. I think the fact that Jake's had that bravery, it just means that other players can follow."

UNITY: Leeds United supporters group Marching Out Together pitchside at Elland Road (Pic: Marching Out Together)

"Giving him that process is invaluable and it shows that everyone deserves to come out on their own time," she said.

Ferguson has been involved with Marching Out Together for three years and in that time taken on a key role in supporting projects which promote LGBTQ+ visibility at Leeds.

Most recently, the group commissioned a United-themed mural, celebrating the diversity of the club's fanbase.

"The mural was done by an artist called Jay [Gilleard], who is actually part of the LGBT community.

REPRESENT: Leeds United LGBT supporters group Marching Out Together display their flag beneath the scoreboard at Elland Road (Pic: Marching Out Together)

"The reason we went for something a little bit left field that wasn't a player or a football scene, was that actually, being LGBT is a little bit different. There's nothing wrong with celebrating that," Ferguson said.

Additionally, Leeds striker Patrick Bamford spoke earlier this season about the acceptance he and his United colleagues would have for a gay teammate.

"Having people like him, who's not a gay man himself, but is absolutely an ally, is invaluable," Ferguson said.

"I think that's the thing now, with Jake coming out, you've got high profile players [showing their allyship]. Personally, I've seen Eric Dier and Jordan Henderson's done it previously."

SALUTE: Marching Out Together Vice Chair Maz Ferguson poses with the group's flag at Vicarage Road (Pic: Marching Out Together)

"For Jake as a young 17-year-old man, I don't think it'll have any bearing on his career. If anything, I think it's gonna have a positive impact."

While Daniels' decision to come out publicly is widely regarded as a step in the right direction for the men's professional game, Ferguson acknowledges there is still work to be done to challenge stereotypes and root out terrace homophobia.

Leeds were forced to condemn homophobic abuse directed at Chelsea loanee Conor Gallagher earlier this season when the young midfielder visited Elland Road with Crystal Palace.

"I'm sure there will be chants in the new season. I don't think we've come so far that there's not going to be, but hopefully he's got the right support around him and the majority of fans won't bat an eyelid.

"If they chant something at Jake they're doing it because they're homophobic and I would absolutely think that they will be challenged on that in the ground. And I think that's the journey we've come on," Ferguson said.

"It's just so powerful. It goes back to having the flag at the ground. All Leeds fans now that walk into that ground or look on the website today, they know where Leeds United stands on homophobia, and that's that it is not acceptable in any form."

MURAL: Leeds United supporters group Marching Out Together's new mural championing diversity within the fanbase (Pic: Marching Out Together)