A REPORT released today has revealed homophobia is rife in Australia team sports with 80 per cent of gay people having witnessed or experienced slurs, threats or even physical assaults either on the field or in the stands.
The Out of the Fields survey also showed half of all gay people taking part in sport in Australia had directly been victims of homophobia, 85 per cent would fear for their safety as spectators if their sexuality was obvious, while only two per cent believed sport was completely accepting of gay people.
The findings have been labelled “alarming” by Andrew Purchas, the former president of the 2014 Bingham Cup gay rugby union world tournament, one of the main supporters of the survey.
“We were all surprised by the extent and depth of the homophobia that the study found in Australian sports,” he said.
“The findings were much worse than we expected, particularly in youth sport.”
The study’s findings have promoted calls for a zero tolerance approach to homophobia, anti-discrimination training for coaches and officials and for gay sporting stars to come out of the closet.
However, a plan to rank Australia’s biggest sports on their progress on combating homophobia has been delayed.
The largest survey of it’s kind, 10,000 people of all sexualities from Australia, New Zealand, the UK, Ireland, Canada and the US were asked about their experiences of homophobia in sport.
Openly-gay LA Galaxy soccer player Robbie Rogers said he hoped Out on the Fields would lead to fundamental changes in sporting culture.
“This change can start with every athlete or fan who decides not to use homophobic language even if it’s meant as humour,” he said.
Just under half of gay men and a third of lesbians weren’t out to their teammates, a figure that grew to 82 per cent and 74 per cent respectively for people under the age of 22.
Victoria University’s Grant O’Sullivan said homophobia could have a profound effect on young people.
“Early negative experiences in school sport and PE can led to lesbian, gay and bisexual people avoiding sport for the rest of their lives and missing out on the physical, mental and social benefits that can come from being active and part of a team.”
Homophobia was the norm in all the countries surveyed but Australia could take some solace from the fact it was behind only Canada as being the most accepting while the US was the least.
Purchas said Australia’s sporting codes were taking steps to stamp out homophobia.
“Our aim for the Bingham Cup was to create a world-class rugby tournament and systemic change in teams sports so everyone is welcome and I think we’re on a journey to doing that.”
Last March, Australia’s five biggest sporting codes signed up to the Bingham Cup led anti-homophobia and inclusion framework, hailed at the time as a world first.
However, a plan to publish a scorecard of their progress implementing the framework has been scrapped in favour of a new “Pride in Sport” benchmarking index and an advisory panel led by the Australia Sports Commission and Human Rights Commission.
There is no current date for the new index to report its findings.
Asked if this was an acknowledgement some codes had failed to live up to expectations, Purchas said an index was preferred as it would be an ongoing project rather than a one-off.
“Some codes have done better than others, but in order to do them all justice, on all the things they have delivered and want to deliver, we need to have a sustainable review process,” he said.
The Star Observer asked federal Sports Minister Sussan Ley about the findings.
She did not reply but a spokesperson for the Department of Health said: “We want to see gay, lesbian and bisexual players, coaches, administrators and fans welcomed in our sports and want them to participate fully and freely in those sports.”