Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 14 October 2015

Irish rugby pundit Neil Francis apologises for saying gay people don't like sport

By Declan Whooley

Published 18/02/2014

Neil Francis made the comments on Newstalk's 'Off The Ball'
Neil Francis made the comments on Newstalk's 'Off The Ball'

Rugby pundit Neil Francis has apologised "unreservedly and profusely" for his "extremely clumsy" comments surrounding gay people and sport.

The former Irish rugby international found himself at the centre of a social media storm after comments on Newstalk's 'Off The Ball' programme on Sunday.

He claimed gay people did not generally have an interest in sport and that only a small percentage were involved in professional sport.

"As a sportsman you don't like ballet," he said, adding: "If you did a survey of the hairdressing industry, how many heterosexuals work in that?"

His comments sparked a flurry of criticism, before he apologised last night and asked to withdraw them. Francis conceded that the interview "wasn't like him".

"When I got home I had a listen to the interview again and it didn't sound like me at all – and a lot of people who listened to it said 'it's not your form'," he said on Today FM's 'The Last Word' programme yesterday.

"Some of the points I tried to make were very clumsily made and my language and the analogies I tried to make were quite poor and poorly expressed, and it's unusual for me not to be able to articulate myself. In this instance, I was unable to do so.

"Listening to what I said, on reflection, I probably said the wrong things and some of the things I said were extremely clumsy. On reflection, I would like to withdraw those comments and apologise profusely and unreservedly."

Leading Welsh referee Nigel Owens, who is gay, said he was willing to accept the apology as long as it was genuine.

"We all make mistakes in our lives and apologies are fine as long as they are genuine and from the heart," the international referee said.

Francis cited an article he wrote about a homosexual player who revealed his sexuality as "probably the best piece I had written". He also cited his part in the documentary 'Queering The Pitch' about Emerald Warriors rugby club, which was set up in Dublin for gay players.

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