New research shows almost three quarters of millennials think sporting organisations are right to publicly support marriage equality.

The study, by market research group YouGov, showed baby boomers were the only generation that didn’t generally support organisations backing marriage equality.

The Australian marriage equality debate is thought to be the first time in the world that major sporting organisations have publicly supported same-sex marriage.

Australian Rugby Union is among the organisations that came out in support of marriage equality.

Overall, 58 per cent of the people surveyed said they support marriage equality, and 56 per cent said sporting groups were right to come out in support of the issue.

The biggest support came from highly engaged ‘superfans’ of rugby, 74 per cent of whom agreed with sporting organisations supporting marriage equality.

More than six in 10 respondents said working to end discrimination against LGBTI people is important to help sports stay relevant to young people.

“The research finds Australians recognise both that same-sex marriage is an important issue to young people and the public support by the sports will help bolster their relationship with young people,” said Sej Patel, YouGov’s head of Australia.

“For organisations looking at engaging more with the young generation, this would be something they should pay more attention to.”

Experts at Monash University are investigating the effect when sporting organisations support social issues.

“This research shows the majority of Australians, particularly core sports fans, support the big sports taking a stance on gay marriage, and they should be encouraged to lead in other areas as well,” said Associate Professor Kerry O’Brien.

Rugby player David Pocock said that sport plays a central role in many people’s lives, and can help move society forward.

“Sport is at its best when it’s challenging society to become more inclusive,” he said.

“It is great to see that the majority of Australians, particularly fans of rugby, believe it was the right thing for sports bodies like the ARU to publicly support marriage equality.

“I think we are starting to see a real shift in society around issues of diversity and inclusion. I’m hopeful that when the results come out on Wednesday we will see a very clear majority of Australians supporting marriage equality and it can finally be written into law in Australia.”

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