We are now into the second week of Stonewall’s Rainbow Laces campaign which encourages sport clubs across the country to come out in support for LGBT people and to make sport everyone’s game. To celebrate this, the Independent’s Craig Bratt is talking to LGBT sports personalities from around our region and sharing their stories to raise awareness of important issues.
Sky Sports presenter Mark McAdam this week launched his part of the Rainbow Laces campaign as he teamed up with some famous faces to encourage the participation of more LGBT people in sport. #ImGame has seen the likes of comedian Tom Allen and TV judge Robert Rinder experience a sporting environment out of their comfort zone to bring the Stonewall campaign into the spotlight once again, and we caught up with Mark to discuss what it’s like being openly gay in the sports media and why believes nothing should hold you back.
Hailing from Bournemouth, McAdam always knew what he wanted to do from a young age having been given the opportunity to take part in a small local film aged 12 and that soon blossomed into the career that he today finds himself in.
“I fell in love with the process of broadcasting and with working in film and TV. From a very young age I knew what I wanted to do.
‘I was lucky enough to get some work experience at the Bournemouth Echo writing about sport, mainly football and also trampolining, which I loved when I was younger.”
“I went on to work at AFC Bournemouth and then eventually joined Sky Sports in 2006.”
Since joining the channel, McAdam has been lucky enough to interview world famous names such as Jose Mourinho, Zinedine Zidane and Arsene Wenger and says he is extremely priveleged to be in his role as well as choosing his top moment.
“My favourite moment at Sky is difficult because you’re in such a privileged position that you meet so many amazing and different people, but for me the one that stands out is interviewing Samuel L Jackson at a golf event and also interviewing a World War Two veteran called John Jenkinson.
“He’s about 99 years old now and is a massive Portsmouth fan that volunteers there. He was inspiring and it was really special.”
McAdam came out as gay in 2014 as in doing so became the first on-screen presenter at the channel to be open about their sexuality, and admits he was apprehensive about the repercussions of his announcement amongst his colleagues and the wider sporting community.
“I have to be honest, I was very nervous when I came out about being who I was and authentic in the sports media world and the football industry as there are not many people who are out, proud and comfortable in their own skin within it.
“Nobody had ever done it before.”
While McAdam blazed a trail in the industry, he still believes more work has to be done to encourage the inclusion of LGBT people within sport but is confident that current way in which sport is going will do wonders if there is to be an openly gay professional footballer in this country.
“The biggest issue in tackling homophobia is the support that we get from within.
“There are still so many clubs, players and individuals that are scared to offer their support because they are concerned what people may think of them.
More work needs to be done, but I think things will start to get better when the more high profile players talk about these issue.
“If a high profile players talks about this stuff, people will start to take notice and it will change their views and opinions.
“When I came out in 2014 I got asked how long it would it be before a footballer followed and I said that it would five to ten years.
“We are now five years down the line and it could be enough five years, but we are so much closer to this happening than we were.”
Thanks in part to the Rainbow Laces campiagn, sport, and football in particular is slowly starting to become a more inclusive and welcoming environment for LGBT supporters, players and staff, and he firmly thinks that it will only continue to get better.
“As time has gone on people have become more educated and campaigns have highlighted being LGBT in football, company’s and people’s awareness has changed.
“The football industry is very different now to what it was five years ago when I came out. There is a long way to go, but it is improving year on year with the Rainbow Laces campaigns.”
McAdam doesn’t just want the campaign to encourage people to get active in sport and make it more welcoming, but also to get behind more LGBT people that want to get into the sports media industry. He says he has been lucky enough to have experienced homophobia in his line of work and believes being gay should not deny anyone their ambitions.
“Absolutely just do it. Being gay does not make a difference.
“Sport is one of the most powerful vehicles for uniting people and to evoke emotions that other things can’t do. You’ve seen it with Gareth Southgate at the World Cup, you’ve seen it with the netball team and the cricket and the rugby.
“To be able to report it and be a part of it in any form is a huge privilege that is a massive thing to be a part of.
“Your sexuality is never an issue and it enhances what you are as a person, as a character and as a broadcaster or journalist. There are so many LGBT people working in the industry now that never thought they previously could and that is a huge platform for other people to get into it.”