Professional Scottish football referees Craig Napier and Lloyd Wilson have today, June 2, publicly come out as gay. Napier’s announcement was made through the Scottish Football Association’s social media, while Wilson talked about his sexuality in a YouTube video with mental health charity Back Onside.
The groundbreaking moments make the men just two of three openly gay male figures in Scottish football history, the first being Justin Fashanu who played for Airdrie and Hearts in the mid-’90s.
An official at the highest level in Scotland, Napier refereed 32 SPFL and domestic cup games during the 2021-22 season. The category one referee was inspired by Josh Cavallo and Jake Daniels who took the brave step to openly disclose their sexualities within the last year, and hopes to help change the climate of Scottish football.
“It’s something that I never thought I’d be sitting here doing,” he confessed.
“It’s been a difficult journey to get to this point but over the last couple of years it’s become a lot easier, and I think that it’s really important that people like me are willing to sit here and do this.
“I don’t think this needs to be a news story, but I think at the moment it really does because we need to see the climate change so that people do feel they can be their true self and live happily and comfortably in their own skin, and that then needs to transcend into football,” he continued.
Napier felt it was important to note that he never had a bad experience coming out, and always felt “lighter” after the fact. He hopes that people will continue to find inspiration and bravery from the recent emergence of gay male figures in football, and that more will follow suit.
“This isn’t a conversation about me. This is a conversation about trying to change the culture in Scottish football […] There is something about football at the moment, there’s still that barrier,” he explained. Although he felt comfortable being out in other aspects of his professional life, also working with the NHS and in a university, he felt he needed to hide his sexuality within the sporting world.
“Until we have these conversations and have these role models on the pitch there will be that stigma, there will be that fear, and that’s what we need to change.”
“We need to see the climate change so that people feel they can be their true self and live happily and comfortably in their own skin.”
An important conversation with Category One referee Craig Napier. pic.twitter.com/bYygya2k23
— Scottish FA (@ScottishFA) June 2, 2022
Lloyd Wilson, who is an up-and-coming referee taking charge of games in Scotland’s lower leagues, separately said that he was making the decision to come out because until now, it has been “17 years of living a life that I didn’t want to live, living a lie, living the way that other people maybe wanted me to live or that I thought other people wanted me to live.”
In the emotional and honest video, he added “I feel doing this interview, that I must say I am petrified about, is absolutely crucial for not just my colleagues, but also my colleagues who are players and suffering this same battle and journey that I have suffered.”
The two Scottish referees follow the likes of Ryan Atkin who became the first openly gay English professional football referee 2017, as well as James Adcock and Northern Ireland’s Ryan Hanna.
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