A new football campaign to “help create an environment where gay and bisexual male players feel able to be themselves” has had an incredible response, reaching over 40 million people worldwide.

Last month, the #ComeOut2Play project urged Twitter users to sign up to a Thunderclap so they could tweet their support for a professional footballer to come out publicly in a move to make the sport a more inclusive game.

The tweet went out earlier today (18 December), with the message reaching a monumental 40,486,452 people worldwide, saying: “When a gay footballer comes out, I will support them. It doesn’t matter who they score with off the pitch.”

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, Alan Carr, John Bishop, Piers Morgan, and Katie Price were among a host of high-profile names who pledged their support.

The English Football League also got behind the campaign.

“The EFL is pleased to support the upcoming Come Out 2 Play initiative, in order to help raise awareness, whilst also promoting the values of the game and ensuring football provides everyone with a safe and welcoming environment,” said EFL Chief Executive, Shaun Harvey.

Amal Fashanu lent her support to Come Out 2 Play too, citing her uncle as proof that football needs to be a more inclusive environment.

Justin Fashanu was the first openly gay professional footballer when he came out in the early ’90s, but he took his own life in 1998.

via Flickr

Related: At least 20 pro footballers afraid to come out of the closet, says ex-club boss

“It’s important for me to do everything I can to support a positive message around gay and bi footballers,” Amal said.

“My uncle is proof that there is still a problem in football today. It’s almost 20 years since he took his own life and still, no footballer has felt able to come out.

“I know gay and bi footballers and staying hidden is hurting them and hurting their performance on the pitch and it’s really sad.”

DIVA magazine publisher Linda Riley, former Leeds United Managing Director David Haigh, and OutNews Global’s Andy West created the new campaign.

“Nobody should feel unable to be who they are out of fear of ridicule or abuse. I offer my full backing to all those professional footballers who currently feel unable to come out and are torn between being true to themselves or silencing a small but
vocal minority,” said Linda Riley.

“I hope that this campaign helps to create an environment where gay or bisexual footballers can be out and proud so that the overwhelming majority of true football fans can demonstrate their full support from the stands and beyond.”

Gay Times was also an official partner of the #ComeOut2Play campaign.

“Gay Times is proud to be part of this initiative which, we hope, will continue a push in ensuring all LGBTQ players feel part of the game, both on and off the pitch,” said Gay Times CEO, James Frost.

“It’s time to make the world’s most beautiful game an inclusive sport for everybody.”

Related: 76% of fans would feel comfortable if a player in their national team came out as gay or bi