Two papers published in the top sport industry scientific journal report little meaningful action to address homophobic behaviour in sport
Six academic studies and a UK Parliamentary Inquiry have found little meaningful action or change following highly publicized commitments by sport leaders in UK, Australia, New Zealand to “stamp out” or “eliminate” homophobic language and create inclusive environments for gay athletes in their sport (see timeline of commitments).
A lack of action by the English Football Association has attracted the most attention in light of the suicide of high-profile player gay Justin Fashanu after he came out. In response to political and public pressure, the FA has made numerous commitments since 2004 to be a leaders on this issue so other players do not feel the need to hide their sexuality and experience discrimination. In 2020, there are currently no openly gay football players.
UK Parliamentary Inquiry
The UK Parliament conducted an inquiry to examine progress on homophobia in 2017. In the final report the parliamentarians wrote:
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.
Best of the bunch
Although researchers have found most sport organizations have put few resources toward addressing homophobia or transphobia, two Australian sport governing bodies have received praise for their leadership: Cricket and Rugby Australia.
Cricket was one of the first national governing bodies to dedicate resources to conduct research to develop evidence-based solutions. Relative to other sport bodies, it has made meaningful progress on the lesbian stigma/stereotype that deters women and girls from playing the sport. It is also the first governing body to conduct extensive consultation and research prior to releasing a comprehensive trans and gender diverse inclusion policy.
Rugby Australia has also been praised for it’s stand-alone policy on homophobia which it recently enforced when it terminated the contract of one of the best rugby union players in the world, Israel Folau, months before a world cup, for a series of homophobic and transphobic social media tweets. Rugby Australia also supported the world’s first study which tested the effectiveness of an anti-homophobia program delivered to teenage players, by professional rugby players from the Melbourne Rebels.