Homophobic attitudes in sport
A Literature Review of Sexual Orientation in Sport undertaken across the UK has concluded that whilst there is a basic understanding among stakeholders that there were issues relating to LGBT people that have to do with participation, discrimination and homophobia in sport, there was a lack of expertise (and in some cases desire) to do what is required to address them. It also highlighted that lack of data means that these issues can be ignored or remain hidden.
In addition, it recognised that sport can be a powerful influence both on young people’s own personal development and on their attitudes to others, so young people’s openness to diversity is likely to continue even after their personal involvement in sport ceases. In particular, it concluded that ‘there was no clear leadership on this issue and even some in government positions appear hesitant to take a stand on policy.’
Further, it is of note that in 2012, the Equality Network in Scotland, in its major research report Out for Sport: Tackling Homophobia and Transphobia in Scottish Sport highlighted the lack of specific action being taken by the Scottish Government and Scottish sports bodies to tackle homophobia in sport or increase LGB participation in sport.
The Stonewall report in Great Britain has also highlighted the particularly high level of homophobic abuse in football and remarks on the “culture of fear where gay players feel it is unsafe to come out”.
More recently research in Wales has indicated that many LGB people were not participating in sport because of they had experienced the sporting environment to be “unpleasant and safe”. It identified a range of challenges including tackling behaviour change in schools, community sport and professional sport.
It is important to note that a number of proactive steps to address homophobia in sport have been taken by sporting organisations across the UK, including in Northern Ireland.
For example, SportNI, in conjunction with Sport England, Sport Scotland, Sport Wales and UK Sport have recently signed up to the GEO Charter on Homophobia and Transphobia in sport. These organisations have also developed and promote amongst sporting bodies an Equality Standard for Sport. This Standard is a framework for assisting sports organisations to widen access and reduce inequalities in sport and physical activity for under-represented individuals, groups and communities.
The UK Government in its action plan Working for LGBT Equality: Moving Forward has included the tackling of homophobia in sport as one of its key priorities.
- The Commission recommends further action by the Executive, in partnership with the sports sector, to introduce initiatives designed to tackle homophobia in sport in Northern Ireland.
- We recommend action to better understand the nature and extent of homophobia in sport in Northern Ireland, steps to raise public awareness of homophobic prejudice in sport; encouraging sporting organisations and schools and local clubs to visibly challenge homophobic behaviour, focusing on any sports where homophobic abuse is particularly prevalent; and encourage openly LGB sporting role models in a range of sports.