Oval Talk

Ex-Ireland star Francis: Gay people have ‘no interest’ in sport

Neil Francis in his playing days

Former Ireland rugby star Neil Francis has sparked controversy in his homeland by saying that gay people have little interest in sport.

Francis, who played 36 times for Ireland between 1987 and 1996, has established himself as a well-respected journalist and broadcaster in Ireland since his retirement from rugby but sparked a barrage of complaints when talking about American football player Michael Sam's decision to publically come out as a gay before entering the NFL draft on Newstalk radio's 'Off The Ball' show.

If Sam does play in the NFL he will be the first openly gay player to play in the league.

In 2009, a Cork hurler, Donal Óg Cusack, became the first high-profile Irish sports figure to come out as gay, and in the wake of the Sam news, the Newstalk team wondered why more had not followed.

Francis said that he thought a lot less than the reported 10 per cent of people who are gay, have any interest in sport, and compared it to the attitude of heterosexual males towards hairdressing.

"You do a survey of the hair-dressing industry and find out how many heterosexuals work in that," he said.

"Professional sport, by its very nature, doesn’t promote (homosexuality). There are a wide range of people who are homosexual, and… the (sporting) environment… isn't something that they're interested in.

"How many homosexual men play professional sport? I would suspect that nowhere near 10 per cent. I would say in the smaller margin of 1 per cent.

"What are their interests? I mean, if you’ve ever sat down with homosexual people, and asked them what their interests are, very often they have no interest in any kind of sport. That's my experience from sitting down with them; I’ve done it on a regular basis."

Francis went on to say that different kinds of people have different interests and noted: "I don't have an interest in ballet."

He also went on to say that he was put off watching the Winter Olympics, because so much of the coverage had centred around Russia attitude towards homosexuals.

"I haven't watched any of the Winter Olympics because of the furore," he pointed out.

When questioned as to whether he was engaging in unfair stereotypes himself Francis said: "I don’t think I'm generalising, I really don't, and I'm entitled to my opinion."

You can listen to the interview on the Off The Ball website. The discussion about gays in sport starts around 12:30.