Everyone has a role to play in fighting homophobia in sport, new report says

By Tomas Hill Lopez-Menchero

A new report has concluded that sport is a “hostile and exclusive environment” for many who identify as LGBT, but also stated that it could help create a more inclusive society.

Players, coaches and spectators all have a role to play, the report states, in changing attitudes in team sport. It encourages those involved in sport to challenge homophobia when they see it.

The report, entitled ‘Homophobia, Gender and Sporting Culture’, was launched last Thursday at the House of Commons by the charity Sport Allies, at an event hosted by Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee chairman Damian Collins MP with the Warwick Rowers.

“For many people in Western society, and especially those who identify as LGBT, the sporting world is a hostile and exclusive environment,’ writes Adam Lowe MSc and Professor Brendon Gough from Leeds Beckett University, in the report.

“From the ubiquitous threat of violence to the use of homophobic language, the perceived ‘weakness’ of being anything less than the traditional masculine ideal is actively and aggressively policed and excluded.

“The task then is to alter the ideals of sport and demonstrate that sports people and teams can be both diverse and competitively strong.

“Rather than promoting exclusion, sport must celebrate inclusion.”

The Warwick Rowers first made headlines in 2009 when they launched a naked calendar to help pay for boat repairs. The calendar found international support and success in the gay community, becoming a symbol against homophobia. It also represented the creation of a gay-straight alliance which culminated in the creation of Sport Allies.

Speaking to an audience which included members of the press and sports stars such as Kate Richardson-Walsh and Lianne Sanderson, Collins reiterated the recommendations made in the report, insisting we all have to speak out against homophobia.

“Together we will change the culture in sport so that everybody can feel able to be themselves,” he told the audience.

Sanderson, the England midfielder who spoke out in support of her teammate Eniola Aluko during the FA’s racism scandal, also made a speech after giving evidence at a parliamentary hearing a week before. She said she was pleased to be back in Westminster for a more positive occasion.

“We need more people like the Warwick Rowers, who are prepared to stand up for what’s right, and be Sport Allies,” she said.

The report will be of particular interest to Team Durham, who have made efforts to create a more inclusive sporting environment at the University.

Photograph: Benson Kua via Flickr 

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