A TEAM of experts from six universities around the world have come together to launch the first-ever international study of homophobia in sport.

The study, called Out on the Fields, was initiated by organisers of Bingham Cup Sydney 2014, the world cup of gay rugby, in consultation with the Sydney Convicts Rugby Club and the International Gay Rugby Association and Board.

It will look at a wide variety of areas, including how often athletes witness or experience homophobic slurs, jokes and bullying while playing sport.

The study follows another world first, when Australia’s five major professional sports collectively committed last month to implementing policies to eliminate homophobia

Participation in the study is open to everyone, regardless of sexuality, though people who are same-sex attracted will be asked a unique set of questions.

Australian Wallaby and ACT Brumbies’ David Pocock (pictured above) is joining athletes from NRL, AFL, cricket and A-League in urging people to participate.

“I think it’s really important that we find out just how prevalent prejudice against people with different sexual orientations is in sport, so that we can begin challenging it at all levels of sport from when kids are starting out right up to professional levels,” Pocock said.

“I hope people take part in this study so that we do have some concrete evidence and stories of people’s experiences.”

Dr Caroline Symons, from Melbourne’s Victoria University, is one of the experts involved in reviewing the study and she highlighted Australia’s “important” role in helping to end homophobia in sport.

“This study will help determine how often people witness or experience homophobia, how many stay in the closet and which team sporting environments are the least welcoming for same-sex attracted people,” she said.

“The research will also help us compare Australia’s sporting culture with other countries, which will help us identify which countries are doing the best work in this area.”

According to Bingham Cup Sydney, all previous research has been mostly locally/nationally-focused and qualitative studies. They said it Out on the Fields was the first large-scale quantitative study.

Bingham Cup Sydney president Andrew Purchas said: “We are often asked by media, governments and others about the prevalence of homophobia in sports, such as insults and abuse, particularly in very masculine team sports such as rugby.

“It’s absolutely critical that we move beyond the many stories and anecdotes about homophobia in sport and collect some solid international statistics to help us understand the full extent of the problem.

“We are thrilled that a wide-range of experts, sporting stars, sporting officials and others have volunteered their time to make this study possible.”

The researchers involved are from Victoria University (Melbourne), Pennsylvania State University, University of Massachusetts, Laval University (Canada), University of Winnipeg (Canada) and Brunel University (London). The actual data is being collected and managed pro bono by sports market research firm Repucom.

The Australian Sports Commission has also indicated plans to conduct similar research in the future to determine whether Australia’s sporting culture is changing, following the commitment by the major sports to eliminate homophobia.

For details and to take part, visit www.outonthefields.comResults of the survey will be released in advance of the Bingham Cup, being held in Sydney at the end of August.

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