Ryan Atkin, who became English football’s first professional referee, still faces plenty of issues. The 32-year-old said the game is still awash with homophobia.Atkin referees matches in the North and South divisions of the National League but obviously wants to move up the ladder to the Premier League. However, the ambitious young referee said things were improving despite the prevalence of homophobia in the sport.”People who are happy in their own skin at work will perform better as a result – the same is true of professional sport,” Atikin was quoted as saying in the Daily Mail.”The best referees are the ones that bring their whole self to the match, officiating with their personality and ultimately improving their ability to get the decisions right.”Referees do not have an easy job and they normally are under pressure from both teams and their fans. Some have also come close to being dangerously heckled by players in matches where passions run high.Atkin said referees can be often unpopular for several reasons but their sexual orientation should not be a reason. However, he was quick to add that he himself has never been a victim of hate or ridicule. “I myself have never been a victim of homophobic abuse but I am aware others have been.”The biggest challenge I might face in the future as an openly gay referee would potentially be dealing with homophobia that could come from players, spectators and possibly even refereeing colleagues, though, so far, I have found officials within football to be very open-minded. It’s something the game can be proud of.”advertisementSeveral top athletes from major sports have come out to speak openly about their sexual orientation. However, in an increasingly more sensitive society, these legends have continued to command respect and fame for their sheer diligence in their due field.