Ryan Atkin becomes UK football's first openly gay referee

Referee Ryan Atkin becomes the UK's first openly gay professional football official.

A National League referee has come out as the UK's first openly gay professional football official.

Ryan Atkin, who serves as a fourth official in the Football League and oversees games himself in the National League North and South, told Sky Sports News that he spoke out about his sexuality to inspire others to "be themselves".

"For a number of reasons, I feel it's the right time for me to say that I'm someone involved in professional football who happens to be gay," he said.

"Clearly, this is a step into the unknown - in our UK pro game, it's widely known that there are currently no openly gay footballers, nor have there been any openly gay referees until now.

"I hope that my action, however small, will help give others in a similar situation the confidence to be themselves. In a few years' time, articles like this won't be necessary, but until that point, all of us in football have a duty to create an environment where everyone can feel comfortable.

"It's OK to be different and when we all truly believe that, we'll start to move on."

Atkin is currently raising awareness about Stonewall's Rainbow Laces campaign, which tackles the issue of LGBT equality in sport.

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