Soccer-Scottish referee Napier comes out as gay

(Reuters) - Scottish referee Craig Napier came out as gay on Thursday, becoming the first openly gay figure in the Scottish game since late Hearts forward Justin Fashanu in the mid-1990s.

The Category One official follows Blackpool's Jake Daniels in coming out after the 17-year-old revealed his sexuality last month.

Napier, 32, said he was inspired by the youngster and felt the need to "change the climate" and remove the stigma and fear that others in a similar position may feel.

"It's something I've obviously lived with for a long time. It's been a difficult journey... it's really important that people like me are willing to sit here and do this," he said in video posted by the Scottish Football Association.

"I don't think this needs to be a news story but I think at the moment, it really does because we need to see the climate change so that people do feel that they can be their true self."

Daniels became the first active male British professional soccer player to come out as gay since former Norwich City and Nottingham Forest forward Fashanu in 1990.

Lower-league referee Lloyd Wilson also came out as gay following Napier's announcement.

"A journey of maybe 17 years of living a life that I didn't want to live, living a lie... and probably dictated and directed in many ways by football," Wilson said in a video on mental health charity Back Onside's YouTube channel.

(Reporting by Dhruv Munjal in Bengaluru; Editing by Toby Davis)

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