Homophobia in Sport Contents

Conclusions and recommendations

Sport's problems with homophobia

1.We consider that the inclusion of Tyson Fury in the shortlist for BBC Sports Personality of the Year was symptomatic of homophobia not being taken seriously enough in sport. It provides an example of how homophobic abuse is allowed to pass unchallenged too often. (Paragraph 4)

2.We are very concerned that, despite the significant change in society’s attitudes to homosexuality in the last 30 years, there is little reflection of this progress being seen in football, particularly in terms of LGB visibility. Indeed, it is often LGB supporters who provide the only LGB visibility at football stadia. (Paragraph 11)

3.We also commend the Amateur Swimming Association for the work it does with LGB swimmers and the steps it is taking towards developing tailored toolkits in order to help operators best assist in the recent upsurge in transgender participation, as well as their support for “safe spaces” and gay-friendly swimming clubs. The ASA ran LGB roadshows to get people to engage with its audit in partnership with the Government Equalities Office steering group, Pride Sports, Ditch the Label, Transsexuals in Sport and Stonewall. We encourage other sporting bodies to follow examples such as these and initiate similar outreach programmes. (Paragraph 19)

4.We recommend that sport governing bodies—many of which have been doing good work in encouraging girls to take part in sport at school—extend their work in schools explicitly to address the problem of homophobia. (Paragraph 23)

5.We have serious concerns over the effects of low participation among LGB youth on their mental and physical health and well-being and we note that, in the long-term, it is very likely that a number of sports have been robbed of talent by the fact that promising young players have not felt accepted or supported in the sport they play. It appears that young players and athletes sometimes feel that they have to make the active choice between either coming out or continuing to participate in their chosen sport. As a result, players and athletes either drop out of sport together or, as has been the case with some professional sportspeople, they wait until after retirement to come out. (Paragraph 24)

6.It is clear to us that the casual use of homophobic epithets and terms has a wide-ranging and damaging effect and we consider it very disappointing that a significant percentage of people consider anti-LGB language to be harmless. It should be treated in the same way as other offensive language, whether racist, sexist or denigrating any other group. (Paragraph 25)

7.Sports clubs are responsible for the wellbeing of their players, and it would be unacceptable for coaches and managers to allow homophobic language to be used without comment or redress, just as it would for racist behaviour to go without reprimand. People within football will know whether this insight applies to their club and should act accordingly to show that they take homophobia seriously. (Paragraph 27)

How things can change

8.Football clubs should take a tougher approach to incidents of homophobic abuse, issuing immediate bans. We are not advocating immediate lifetime bans. Instead, issuing bans of one to two years in the first instance would indicate clearly that this kind of behaviour will not be tolerated. (Paragraph 33)

9.We believe that LGB-specific sessions within sport may be beneficial. We would also encourage all national governing bodies to promote the establishment and development of LGB-friendly clubs which are to be affiliated to the relevant governing body. This must be understood as a measure of encouraging inclusivity of all sports enthusiasts regardless of their sexual preference and by no means been seen as a move towards creating divisions between specific groups or members of society. (Paragraph 35)

10.We welcome the increasing LGB visibility within sport and note that many sports, particularly rugby, have made significant progress in this respect. However, we feel that no sportsperson should feel under undue pressure or feel ‘forced’ to come out. Coming out is a personal and private decision which should not be determined by others. (Paragraph 38)

11.We regret that there is so little LGB visibility in football. We warmly support and encourage the first player, or group of players, who feel they are comfortable and confident enough to come out as we believe that they will make a valuable and significant contribution to football. (Paragraph 39)

12.The main corporate sponsors have a duty to assure sportspeople that they will not lose their sponsorship as a direct result of coming out. Major sponsors should come together to launch an initiative in the UK to make clear that, should any sportsperson wish to come out, they will have their support. (Paragraph 42)

13.We recommend that national governing bodies commit funds and resources to supporting further and more visible interventions as part of the Rainbow Laces campaign. This should incorporate television and cinema advertisements, screens at football matches and outside advertising such as bus-stop advertisements. This must be a sustained effort over a significant period of time, rather than a short-term commitment. (Paragraph 46)

14.We believe that the FA, in particular, should encourage the participation of straight players in education programmes and campaigns and encourage them to champion the cause. (Paragraph 48)

15.In order best to work with grassroots clubs, national governing bodies should produce targeted guidance and training at these levels. We would encourage the introduction of a toolkit for clubs and recommend that national governing bodies partner with relevant organisations such as Stonewall in order to produce, targeted, sensitive and common sense advice. As the largest and wealthiest governing body, the FA should take the lead on the implementation of further training programmes. The issue has not been addressed satisfactorily by the FA up to this point and immediate action is required to change the culture. (Paragraph 49)

16.Training should be available for all staff at all levels which should incorporate both educational as well as practical training. We recognise that homophobic language is often prevalent within grassroots sports and at coaching level; educational programmes should make clear why this is not acceptable. Additionally, training should advise staff on how to both recognise and deal with homophobic abuse where it occurs. This should be available to all, incorporating coaches, match officials and stewards. It is especially important that national governing bodies make clear to stewards that they will be supported when confronting and reporting homophobia. Should stewards face backlash from fans, this should be dealt with in the same way as abuse directed at players, with a zero-tolerance approach. (Paragraph 50)

17.It should be made clear that match officials should have a duty to report and document any kind of abuse at all levels. This should not just apply to officials in the professional leagues who hear abuse from spectators but should filter down to youth level; for example, if officials hear homophobic terms used by parents. (Paragraph 51)

18.A zero-tolerance approach to the use of all homophobic language and behaviours should be implemented and standardised sanctions should be implemented across all sports. It appears that sanctions are all too often addressed at the discretion of the club or governing body involved. A tougher approach across the board would go some way towards sending a clear message that the issue will no longer be ignored. (Paragraph 52)

10 February 2017