Gay Gooners patron Matt Lucas believes there will be more openly gay footballers in the next five to ten years.

Matt Lucas grew up as an Arsenal fan and is currently a patron of the club’s LGBT supporters’ group, Gay Gooners. Speaking to the BBC, Lucas believes that any player to come out in England will be a “superstar” and inspiration for other players.

“The first players to come out will be superstars because they’ll speak to people in the game who aren’t spoken to,” Lucas said. “And they’ll speak beyond the game. And they’ll get every advertising contract and they’ll become really iconic.”

Lucas claims he didn’t feel safe as a gay supporter while watching the team at Highbury, and that while the clubs came together to stamp out racism, the same must be done for homophobia.

“I grew up on the terraces, at Highbury, and I didn’t really feel that safe as a gay person. There was racism in the game, which the clubs have worked together to try and kick out, and it’s the same with homophobia now.”

He went on to admit that football wasn’t in a position to accept openly gay players, but was optimistic of that changing within the next five to ten years.

“There are so many things that can go against you in football. You don’t want to embrace anything that coud be seen as a weakness. And we’re not yet at that place, I think, inside football, where people feel strong enough to come out. But it will happen – maybe in the next five or ten years – that’s what I believe.”

Lucas’ comments echo the sentiments of Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba, who feels that gay footballers would be respected.

In 2013, former Leeds United player Robbie Rogers became just the second male footballer based in Britain to come out. He briefly retired afterwards, before returning to play for LA Galaxy in the MLS.

The first openly gay player to play in the Premier League was German midfielder Thomas Hitzlsperger, who played for West Ham United, Everton and Aston Villa, although such a revelation wasn’t made until 2014, after he’d played in the top flight.