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Australia’s major sports unite to sign landmark anti-homophobia policy
Apr09

Australia’s major sports unite to sign landmark anti-homophobia policy

LAST UPDATED // Wednesday, 09 April 2014 16:35 Written by // Cec Busby

Australia’s major sporting codes have signed a landmark agreement committing to ending homophobia in sport.

CEOs from the Australian Football League, Australia Rugby Union, National Rugby League, Football Federation of Australia and Cricket Australia signed an agreement on Wednesday committing to ensuring a welcoming and safe environment for players, coaches, and fans regardless of sexual identity.

The sporting bodies have agreed to implement an ‘anti homophobia and inclusion framework’ by the end of August 2014 in time for the arrival of thousands of gay rugby players and fans ahead of the 2014 Bingham Cup to be held in Sydney.

“I’m proud to see Australian sports play such an important leadership role through making this commitment to diversity and inclusion,” said Australia's Minister for Sport, Peter Dutton. “There is no place for discrimination on our sporting fields, in our clubs or sports organisations.”

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Above: President of Bingham Cup Sydney 2014 Andrew Purchas. Top image: AFL CEO Andrew Demetriou

Andrew Purchas, President of Bingham Cup Sydney 2014 and Founder of the Sydney Convicts Rugby Club, who were instrumental in the signing of the agreement and the development of the framework, said many LGBTI people were afraid to come out to teammates because of homophobic attitudes and suggested the new framework would produce a culture that was more tolerant and inclusive.

“Many gay, lesbian and bisexual people still stay in the closet, or drop out of sport altogether, because of homophobic attitudes and discrimination in sport. We have very few gay professional sportspeople who have felt safe to be open about their sexuality while competing and ultimately be role models to others,” Purchas told SX.

“With these initiatives, we hope to see significant changes to sporting culture. The major professional sporting codes are committed to do more than ban homophobic sledges.

“They have committed to create encouraging and welcoming sporting environments for gay, lesbian and bisexual people, whether they participate as players, officials or supporters.”

A number of sporting luminaries were present at the event to lend their support to ending homophobia in sport, including Wallaby and Bingham Cup Ambassador, John Eales, who suggested sports were becoming more inclusive.

“I feel we have reached a turning point in our efforts to change sporting culture so that sexuality is no longer an issue,” Eales said.

The Wallabies’ star player believes it is more important to focus on ability than sexuality.

“It’s important to focus entirely on a person’s ability to play a sport and not get caught-up in old fashioned, clearly incorrect stereotypes and assumptions about people. I’m very proud of the five Australian sporting organisations for undertaking this commitment to make their sport more welcoming, safe and inclusive.”

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Image: Australian Rugby Union CEO Bill Pulver at the announcement of the anti-homophobia framework. 

It’s a sentiment shared by Dave Pocock, national rugby player and member of the Australian Wallabies.

“I think it’s a travesty that people aren’t able to participate in sports for fear of being judged or who do participate and aren’t open about their sexuality.

“I hate the idea of people missing out on sport because of the fear of being discriminated against.

“If you look through the history of sports, I think sports are at their very best when they are challenging society to be more inclusive.

“That’s when we really see the value of sport, when we see people regardless of their race, sexual orientation or anything else.”

Pocock laments the fact he has never played with someone who is openly gay.

“For me that is pretty sad, because statistically I have. What that means is that people on my teams haven’t felt safe, being who they really are.

“I think it is so important that we are not telling people that they have to come out and express their true sexuality, but we have to do more to make it a welcoming environment so that people feel safe to come out, and it’s not a big deal and when an athlete comes out as gay it’s not a huge headline.”

Bingham Cup President Andrew Purchas said the signing was a turning point for sports and the LGBTI community’s efforts to achieve a mandate to be treated equally and fairly on and off the playing field.
“We hope this historic event will attract the attention of sporting organisations around the world and motivate others to make similar commitments.”

A 30-second community service advertisement (CSA) developed by Play By The Rules and featuring Mitchell Johnson (Cricket), Harry Kewell (Football) and Alessandro Del Piero (Football) will be aired nationally as part of the anti-homophobia campaign.

“It’s important to focus entirely on a person’s ability to play a sport and not get caught-up in old fashioned, clearly incorrect stereotypes and assumptions about people. I’m very proud of the five Australian sporting organisations for undertaking this commitment to make their sport more welcoming, safe and inclusive,” said Eales.

VIDEO: Watch the community service announcement 'Play by the rules'

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Cec Busby

Cec Busby

Cec Busby is the news editor of SX and GayNewsNetwork.com.au.

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