Homophobia in sport

Parliamentary and Policy Officer, Charlotte Adams, takes a look at the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee’s report ‘Homophobia in Sport’. The Committee put forward a number of recommendations for National Governing Bodies (NGBs), particularly that NGBs and the wider sport and recreation sector should consider committing more funding and resources to tackle the issue. This blog explores what the recommendations could mean for the sport and recreation sector and the impact it could have on our members. 

On Sunday, the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee published their report ‘Homophobia in Sport.’ The Committee – a cross-party group of MPs who monitor the policy, administration and expenditure of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and its associated bodies – examined the issue of homophobia in sport beyond football. As part of our evidence submission to the Committee, we highlighted the role our members play in reducing homophobia in sport, the classroom and the community.

A key recommendation from the report is increasing Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual (LGB) visibility in sport and enhancing the role of NGBs, and other grassroots sport and recreation organisations, in tackling homophobia. The report highlighted that despite a significant change in society’s attitudes to homosexuality, there is still a long way to go to increasing LGB visibility in sport. The report also suggests that the sport and recreation sector will have an increasing responsibility to tackle the issue and recommend more visible interventions – such as committing more funding and resources.

We know that many organisations have already taken positive action to increase LGB visibility – such as the Amateur Swimming Association (ASA), who were commended by the Committee for their outreach programme. If Government were to endorse this recommendation, we would ask for a collaborative effort to help the wider sport and recreation sector improve LGB visibility.  

Another significant recommendation is that fans who display homophobic attitudes at matches should face immediate, lengthy bans on attending games. The Committee advocates a zero-tolerance approach to the use of all homophobic language and behaviours, and suggests that clubs should consider issuing bans on fans for one or two years.

Should Government decide to take this forward, we would call for a cross-departmental approach, with the Home Office, the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) working together to issue guidance to NGBs and other grassroots sport and recreation organisations on how to tackle such behaviour.  

As you may have noticed from these highlights, it seems that the Committee’s recommendations focus on what more NGBs and partners can do. We know there is willingness within the sport and recreation sector to do more but this will more than likely require additional resources. So we will see how Government responds to the Committee’s report but we hope that this point will be recognised.

The Sport and Recreation Alliance has been working with a cross-government working group, led by DCMS, and will continue to feed our members’ views into the group. We are also running our Alliance Learning Week which focuses on Ethics, Equality and Diversity, and also includes a podcast on transgender participation.

If you would  like to find out further information on improving your LGBT policies, procedures and practice, we would suggest contacting your equality lead in the first instance if you have one. We will continue to offer support to our members to help improve LGBT visibility, and make the case to Government that there needs to be a joined-up effort to achieve this.