AUSTRALIA’S sporting codes have been given another two months to show how they will make their sports more welcoming to gay people following a Star Observer investigation that has revealed many are in danger of missing their own self-imposed deadline of implementing new anti-homophobia and inclusion policies in time for the Bingham Cup. 

The opening ceremony of the Bingham Cup, dubbed the world cup of gay rugby held every two years, takes place on Thursday night in Sydney.

So far, only one sporting code has a finalised inclusion policy while a number have said they will introduce “training programs”.

In April, Australian Rugby Union (ARU), Football Federation Australia (FAA), Cricket Australia, the National Rugby League (NRL) and the Australian Football League (AFL) signed the ground breaking Anti-Homophobia and Inclusion Framework at a high profile event attended by chief executives and leading players from each of the codes.

The statement committed the codes to “implementing policies consistent with the framework to fight homophobia and promote inclusion”.

Each code was given a deadline of August 27 this week  the day before the Bingham Cup 2014 Sydney opening ceremony — for “finalising and commencing implementation of an anti-homophobia policy” based on the Framework.

Additionally, many of the codes backed their signatures with separate public statements to the same effect.

While all the sports have listed sexuality in various anti-harassment and member protection policies for some time, and have contributed players to adverts and videos promoting inclusion, the Star Observer has found that the level of progress differs widely when it comes to the far more wide-ranging commitment made in April.

In light of this, Bingham Cup organisers have told the Star Observer they planned to release a report card on each of the codes’ Framework implementation progress.

Alone among five major codes, NRL said they had “finalised a diversity and inclusion policy that is consistent with the key elements of the inclusion framework”.

Its head of communications Sandy Olsen said the policy was: “A natural extension to our commitment to inclusiveness and illustrates that there is a place in rugby league for everyone irrespective of race, colour, sexuality, gender, disability or anything else.”

The NRL would not give the Star Observer access to the policy that is to be rolled out from next week.

However, Olsen said the policy covered the six key areas of dissemination and training, sanctions and reporting, implementation, review and responsibility, as well as leadership and partnerships as laid out in April’s Framework.

ARU and AFL have both been widely praised for their ongoing efforts to promote inclusion in the game, with ARU facilitating the Sydney Convicts becoming the first gay team worldwide to play a curtain raiser as part of professional rugby match while AFL publicly backed a pride match and encouraged its players to march in LGBTI parades, such as Melbourne’s Pride March.

However, neither code has yet signed off nor implemented policies in the wake of the Framework.

Both codes told the Star Observer they were looking to do so in the coming week, within a whisker of the first Bingham Cup match on Friday.

An ARU spokesperson said: “We anticipate the policy will be signed off by the board and published prior to the first match.  By doing so, ARU will be delivering on our commitment to develop an inclusion policy, aimed at stamping out discrimination and homophobia to coincide with the launch of the 2014 Bingham Cup.”

AFL corporate affairs director James Tonkin said the league had zero tolerance of discrimination and was “close to finalising” a new anti-homophobia policy that drew together a number of current initiatives into one document with the “aim to eliminate homophobic discrimination and demonstrate our ongoing commitment to promote inclusion and diversity within our sport and beyond”.

Despite a news story on the Cricket Australia website from April stating “the relevant policies will be created by the end of August to coincide with the Bingham Cup,” last week the organisation confirmed to the Star Observer no new policies were in place or were imminent.

Instead, Cricket Australia community relations adviser Sabrina De Palma said a new training program was in development that aimed to “educate cricket clubs, school teams and indoor cricket centres about the importance of diversity within our sport,” with LGBTI engagement a key component.

The code also confirmed that all elite Australian cricketers will also take part in diversity training, but it could be as late as 2018 until “until every member of the Australian cricket workforce would have been trained in inclusion and cultural awareness”.

Cricket Australia said they had ensured the organisation’s code of behaviour made discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation “a reportable offence”.

FFA also couldn’t point to any specific new policies, instead only confirming that the sport’s signing of the Framework had been communicated to clubs.

“Since the signing of the… Framework, FFA has been working with the nine member federations as well as the Hyundai A-League and Westfield W-League clubs to have the Framework in place by the end of August,” the code said in a statement.

The organisation said they would work with the other codes to implement an education campaign from September.

Joseph Roppolo, president of gay football team the Sydney Rangers, said the signing of the Framework was a positive move but FFA needed to “take it to the next step”.

“FFA has lagged in their adoption of these policies and we see our role as facilitating that conversation and helping to keep them accountable for David Gallop’s [FFA’s CEO] signature on the Framework,” he said.

Rappolo said there had been a number of homophobic incidents in football where there “could have been a bit more leadership from FFA” and he encouraged the body to “make a commitment of substance” when it came to anti-homophobia and inclusion initiatives.

He said a first step would be to publicly support the annual pride tournament played between soccer’s various LGBTI teams.

Bingham Cup Sydney 2014 president Andrew Purchas said that while the timeline for the implementation of the Framework was ambitious, nevertheless it provided the codes with “a clear structure and guidance to follow to ensure their sports are welcoming and safe for gay, lesbian and bisexual people”.

He said Bingham Cup had received updates from each of the codes and “based on this information only, it appears there has been varying degrees in which the Framework has been adopted and implemented by the major sports”.

Purchas said that as a result, a “detailed analysis” would be undertaken which would “provide the community with a thorough assessment of how well the Framework has been implemented by Australian sports.”

He also said the report card would be released at the same time as the full results of the Out on the Fields survey, which aims to measure discrimination against gay people in team sports.

“Unfortunately [the preliminary] results show homophobia is commonly experienced and witnessed in Australian sports,” Purchas said.

He added that they would continue to work with the codes, the Australian Sports Commission and Australian Human Rights Commission on the Framework’s implementation.

The Australian Sports Commission, which is responsible for providing strategic leadership to Australian sport, said they were “comfortable” with the codes’ progress noting they had held a “group teleconference” with the codes on the Framework.

“I think holding them account to a deadline next week is a little unrealistic given the time required to gain board approval once a policy/program has been developed and it being the middle of their competition seasons,” said Merrilee Barnes, the Commission’s Lead on Participation and Integrity.

She said a workshop would be held in November focused to help the codes with the Framework and “turn policy in to action”.

“We will continue to touch base with them over the next few months to check in on how things are progressing,” Barnes said.

The Australian Human Rights Commission said they were not in a position to answer the Star Observer’s questions.


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