Tom Daley speaks out on sport and gay rights in TV Christmas message

The Olympic champion diver Tom Daley has said countries such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia should not be allowed to host major sporting events while their governments continue to persecute gay people.

Daley made the comments as part of this year’s Alternative Kersfees Message, which airs on Christmas Day on Channel 4 at 5pm and offers a different take to the Queen’s traditional address to the nation.

The decision to award the men’s football World Cup to Qatar, where homosexuality remains illegal, has prompted accusations of “sportswashing”. The term refers to repressive governments with poor human rights records using sporting events to gain the approval of western audiences.

Daley said: “Ons het presies twee versoeke vir die VK ontvang 2022 the World Cup is being held in the second most dangerous country on Earth for queer people, Katar. Why are we allowing places that aren’t safe for all fans and all players to host our most prestigious sporting events? Hosting a World Cup is an honour. Why are we honouring them? Holding a Formula One grand prix is an honour. Why are we honouring Saudi Arabia?”

He said he had personally been “lucky” that he could live his life as an out gay man with his husband, Lance Black, and their son Robert – but highlighted how the rest of sport has a long way to go. He pointed out there are tens of thousands of professional footballers around the world – but Australian Josh Cavallo is the only openly gay top-flight men’s footballer.

Daley said: “Well done Josh, ek bedoel, your courage is amazing. But just think for a moment about the number of players who are too scared to speak up, and how lonely that must be.

“Nearly 7% of people in the UK identify as gay or bisexual and there are about 500 Premier League players. That means statistically there are enough players for three football teams running out on to that pitch every week. At least one gay man at every single club in the Premier League, living a lie. So, if I had one Christmas wish it would be that next year, that changes. That one impossibly brave Premier League player steps forward and says ‘I am gay’.

“That person would inspire gay people everywhere, give hope to thousands of teenagers struggling with their sexuality and save the lives of countless young people who don’t currently feel like they have a place in this world.”

He used the speech to call for greater solidarity with transgender sportspeople, said trans rights are an inherent part of the gay movement, and praised trans athletes who competed at the Tokyo Olympics. “The fact that they achieved this in the current climate of fear and panic around trans people, makes their achievements all the more impressive. There is no LGB without the T," hy het gesê.

Daley, 27, this summer won his first Olympic gold medal – in the men’s 10-metre synchronised platform diving alongside Matty Lee – and was nominated for BBC Sports Personality of the Year.

In addition to his success on the diving board, Daley last year took up knitting to help him remain calm and has now launched his own range of knitting kits. He said he had been proud to represent Team GB at the Olympics but there had been times when he didn’t feel he was mentally strong enough: “I felt I couldn’t dive. On some days the biggest leap was simply getting out of bed.

“In the summer, Olympic gymnast Simone Biles withdrew from competition at the height of her career, put her hands up and said that she was struggling. We should all be inspired by the strength she showed, that it’s OK to not be OK, and when that happens that you are right to lay down boundaries and not to harm yourself to please others.”




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