Scottish referees Craig Napier and Lloyd Wilson come out as gay

Napier took charge of 10 cinch Premiership games last season while Wilson officiates in the lower leagues.

By Press Association Published: 2 June 2022 - 2.02pm

Two referees have come out as gay in a bid to change the culture of Scottish football.

Craig Napier and Lloyd Wilson become the first openly gay participants in men’s Scottish football since Justin Fashanu, who played for Airdrie and then Hearts in 1993 and 1994, several years after announcing his sexuality.

Both match officials revealed they had been inspired by similar public announcements from Adelaide player Josh Cavallo and 17-year-old Blackpool forward Jake Daniels, who last month became the first active male professional footballer in the UK to come out since Fashanu in 1990.

Napier, who took charge of 10 top-flight games in Scotland last season, said in a video on the Scottish Football Association Twitter account: “I have never had a bad experience when I have had these conversations. I have always felt so much lighter after speaking about it

“This isn’t a conversation about me, this is a conversation about trying to change the culture within Scottish football.”

Napier was motivated by a desire to help others avoid the mistakes he made.

“It’s not something that you can change, it’s not something that is worth hiding,” he said.

“It’s a lot of wasted energy worrying about whether you are going to lose friends over it, whether you are not going to get promoted within refereeing because of it, whether you are not going to get selected for the first team because of it.

“I think people will be better served enjoying their life and living their true self.”

“This is a conversation about trying to change the culture within Scottish football”
- Craig Napier

Napier feels there is a “barrier” to doing that in football that he does not experience in social spheres or his other workplaces in the NHS and academia.

“Football is different and I think that’s why these conversations are important because we need to change that culture,” he said.

“There are no footballers on the pitch that are open but they are there and until we have these conversations and these role models on the pitch there will be that stigma and fear. And that’s what we need to change.

“Josh and Jake are changing that and hopefully in Scotland I can play a small part in hoping it can inspire whoever is out there to be more comfortable in who they are and have a conversation with family, friends, team-mates, and come out publicly if they feel able to.”

Wilson, who referees in Scotland’s lower leagues, talked about his sexuality in a video on the YouTube channel of mental health charity Back Onside as he urged others not to repeat his “horrific journey” and live a lie.

He added: “I feel that doing this interview – which I must say I am petrified about – is absolutely crucial not just for my colleagues but my colleagues who are players, who I know many are suffering this same battle and journey that I have suffered.

“I know people will watch this and say: ‘Why is this even news? Why are we even talking about this?’

“I’m talking about this because I know that there are people out there watching the game, working in clubs, playing the game, refereeing, who are continuing to live in a way that they don’t want to live.”

James Child
Referee James Child during the Betfred Challenge Cup final (Mike Egerton/PA)

He added: “I think it’s really important to point out as well that both Josh and Jake have had significant support from the football community.

“And I am actually really confident that Scottish football as a community, Scottish fans, will absolutely support me doing this and would absolutely support anybody in Scottish football who feels they need to do this.

“I’m hoping in a year or two or whenever that might be that this is completely old news and that people can just be them because people are killing themselves because they can’t be them.”

Rugby league referee James Child last week declared ahead of taking charge of the Challenge Cup final that coming out in 2021 had led to him feeling more relaxed around players on the pitch.

Now retired rugby union referee Nigel Owens announced he was gay in 2007.

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