LGBTI community welcomes new pledge by Australia’s major sports to end homophobia
Members of the LGBTI sporting community, human rights advocates and health and wellbeing organisations have welcomed the signing of a framework to end homophobia in sport by Australia’s major sporting codes.
The agreement was signed in Sydney on Wednesday by CEOS from the Australian Football League, Australia Rugby Union, National Rugby League, Football Federation of Australia and Cricket Australia.
The agreement commits to ensure a welcoming and safe environment for players, coaches, and fans regardless in sport of sexual identity and 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.
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Out AFL player Jason Ball, whose experience of homophobia in sport was used as one of the case studies in the framework, heralds the signing of the agreement as an historic moment for Aussie sport.
“Together we stand stronger, and the fact that all major sporting codes in Australia have united behind a commitment to tackling homophobia in sport is a huge achievement,” Ball told SX.
Ball said homophobia was a real issue in AFL and suggested the lack of out players pointed to the need for the implementation of a framework to battle homophobia.
“Homophobia is a very real problem in sport, and within the AFL the fact that no elite level player feels comfortable enough to come out is an indication that more work needs to be done,” he said.
“Research shows that those who are in the closet are significantly worse off in terms of their mental health than those who are open about their sexuality. Because of the homophobic culture, the football club felt like the one place I would never be able to come out.
“Hopefully today is the start of a new journey towards making sport a safe and welcoming place for all people, regardless of sexuality, and that must start with saying no to homophobia.”
The framework for the code of conduct was developed by organisers of the Bingham Cup Sydney in conjunction with the Human Rights Commission.
Above:Football Federation CEO David Gallop signs the anti-homophobia framework at a press event in Sydney. Photo: Courtesy Bingham Cup Sydney
Andrew Purchas, President of the Bingham Cup Sydney 2014, said he hoped the agreement would produce a culture that is more tolerant and inclusive.
“With these initiatives, we hope to see significant changes to sporting culture,” Purchas said.
“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.”
Human Rights Commissioner Tim Wilson agreed the new framework would work towards eliminating homophobia in sports.
“Codes of conduct are vital in complementing law to drive cultural change within organisations, to tackle homophobia and to provide a more inclusive sporting environment,” said Wilson.
“The framework provides a practical guide to eradicating homophobia, discrimination, harassment and bullying on the basis of sexuality.”
Justin Koonin, convenor of the NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby, told SX the lobby was thrilled with the historic agreement.
“We are delighted that Australia's major sporting codes have collectively signalled their commitment to tackling homophobia by signing up to this policy.
“Sport has traditionally been an area of public life where addressing homophobia has been particularly difficult, and the commitment shown today is surely a sign of changing times,” Koonin told SX.
“We congratulate the organisers of the Bingham Cup for their initiative and hard work, and are pleased to have been able to contribute to the process. We look forward to working together with all involved to drive greater inclusion in the years to come.”
Kate Carnell, CEO of beyondblue, told SX it was fantastic Australia’s biggest sporting codes have banded together to really tackle homophobia.
“Like any form of discrimination, homophobia can do great harm to people’s mental health, causing stress which can in turn lead to depression and anxiety,” Carnell said.
“This agreement sends a powerful message that whether on the footy field or elsewhere, no one should endure abuse or threats just for being who they are.”
A spokesperson for lesbian soccer club, The Flying Bats, told SX the agreement will foster a more inclusive environment, on and off the field, as has been long promoted by LGBTI sporting groups.
“As a community club with a focus on proving a fun and inclusive environment in which our members can be healthy, meet people and ultimately be themselves, it’s wonderful that this will be reflected in mainstream sport.
“It is also important both upcoming sports stars and lifelong amateur players will have more role models to look up to, that make them feel like they can truly be themselves.”