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Page last updated at 07:39 GMT, Monday, 28 February 2011

Steven Davies backed after confirming he is gay

Steven Davies
Davies has played in eight one-day and five T20 internationals

England wicketkeeper Steven Davies has received support from senior figures in cricket after revealing he is gay.

England coach Andy Flower said he had known for some time, adding: "Steve's private life is his own concern.

"It has absolutely no bearing on his ability to excel at the very highest level in international sport."

Vikram Solanki, chairman of the Professional Cricketers' Association, said: "Steve has the full support of all his colleagues in cricket."

Surrey's Davies, 24, is the first active professional cricketer to confirm he is gay.

"I'm comfortable with who I am - and happy to say who I am in public," he said.

"To speak out is a massive relief for me but if I can just help one person to deal with their sexuality then that's all I care about."

England team supportive of Davies - Bell

Davies, who was part of the victorious Ashes squad but who missed out on a place in the England squad for the current World Cup campaign, came out to his friends and family five years ago.

He decided to confide in Flower ahead of the recent tour to Australia.

The coach, together with captain Andrew Strauss, then let the rest of the squad know.

"It was a fantastic thing to do, telling the lads. The difference is huge. I am so much happier," said Davies.

"I told Andy Flower first. It was a tough thing for me to do, to tell him face-to-face, but I had to do it.

"He supported me 100%, [both] him and Andrew Strauss. It was the right thing to do as I felt I couldn't live like this any more."

Davies, who made his international debut in a Twenty20 match against the West Indies in Trinidad in 2009, is a former England under-19 captain who made his debut for Worcestershire at 18.

And former England captain Alec Stewart suggested Davies' decision could make him a better cricketer.

"It means he can be more relaxed and express himself even more and that must surely be great," Stewart, who knows Davies well through their Surrey connections, told BBC Radio 5 live. "In today's world it's not a problem - it's neither here or there."

Davies is one of only a few professional sportsmen to come out. Footballer Justin Fashanu, who died in 1998, and dual-code rugby international Gareth Thomas both did so during their careers.

Martina Navratilova (tennis) 1981
Justin Fashanu (football) 1990
Greg Louganis (diving) 1995
John Amaechi (basketball) 2007
Donal Og Cusack (hurling) 2009
Gareth Thomas (rugby) 2009

Davies says he would be happy to help any other sportsmen if they also took the decision to reveal that they were gay.

"Yes, definitely," he said. "Gareth Thomas' story helped me. It showed me it can be done.

"He was brave enough to stand up and say who he was. If I can help anyone else like he helped me, that would be great."

Flower told the England and Wales Cricket Board website that Davies "has had and will continue to have the full respect and support of the entire squad".

"This is something Steve chose to discuss with me and the squad some time ago," Flower added.

"I would like to make it very clear that Steve is first and foremost a very talented cricketer and a valued member of the England set-up.

"Steve has had and will continue to have the full respect and support of the entire squad and everyone involved in England cricket. I have no doubt that he will continue to work hard to regain a place in the England squad."

Solanki added: "Many of those Steve plays with and against have known about this for some time and none of them regard it as anything other than an entirely personal matter."

Gareth Thomas
Rugby star Thomas confirmed he was gay in December 2009

England batsman Ian Bell said: "We knew before the Ashes series - and, for us, that didn't change anything.

"Steve is a very popular guy in our team. He's a fantastic cricketer and that's what we see him as. He's a massively important person in our team going forward. The more cricket he can play for England, the better."

Hugh Morris, managing director of England Cricket, said: "Steve Davies is held in the highest regard by the ECB as a very talented young cricketer and he has our full support at a time when he has chosen to talk about his personal life, and that stance will remain consistent for any player.

"We work closely with the PCA to ensure we have adequate support systems in place to offer guidance to all players on matters both on and off the field and our 'One Game' project demonstrates an ongoing commitment to ensuring that cricket is inclusive at every level."

Welsh rugby legend Thomas who came out in 2009 and is currently playing rugby league for Super League team Crusaders, said: "The ECB should send out its own message that Steven must be respected, then there wouldn`t be any abuse.

"You wouldn't tolerate racism so why would you tolerate any other kind of discrimination?

"There was one incident during my first away game in rugby league where a section of Castleford fans chanted abuse at me.

"They were reported by other Castleford fans, and the RFL banned them and fined the club, demonstrating that rugby league is a game for everybody."

The decision by Davies to go public over his sexuality has been supported by other sports stars and celebrities on social media network Twitter.

Former England cricket captain Michael Vaughan said: "Steve will get a huge amount of support for having the courage to come out. I am sure it's relief for him now that he is not hiding anything."

Yorkshire captain Andrew Gale said: "Good on Stevie D, good bloke, takes some bottle. Good role model, you are who you are, others may be more confident to come out now."

Writer, actor and TV presenter Stephen Fry said: "Brave, charming, modest and inspiring. No big deal yet of course a huge deal. Top man Steven Davies"

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see also
Prior in England World Cup squad
19 Jan 11 |  England
Surrey duo 'have England futures'
12 Jan 11 |  Surrey
Surrey duo ready for Ashes battle
28 Oct 10 |  Surrey
Homophobia tide turning - Thomas
30 Jun 10 |  Crusaders
Inside Sport - The Last Taboo
21 May 10 |  Football
Rugby will back Thomas - Woodward
20 Dec 09 |  Welsh

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