Sports bodies urged to show homophobia a red card

John Barrowman's gay kiss during the opening ceremony for last year's Glasgow Commonwealth Games features in the equality charter. Picture: Getty

John Barrowman's gay kiss during the opening ceremony for last year's Glasgow Commonwealth Games features in the equality charter. Picture: Getty

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SPORTS clubs and governing bodies will be urged this week to back a new charter to tackle homophobic bullying in Scotland. The declaration is also aimed at increasing gay and transgender people’s participation in sport.

The launch of the Scottish LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) Sports Charter comes three years after Scotland on Sunday revealed research that showed three in four Scots said there was a problem with anti-homosexual attitudes and backed a high-profile campaign to address it. Last month, Christopher Saynt, Scotland’s first openly gay wrestler, revealed that he had received hate mail after coming out, and said other wrestlers were too scared to follow suit.

The five-point charter is due to be unveiled at Hampden Park in Glasgow on Wednesday. It will call for:

Steps to actively involve LGBT people in sport and visibly support LGBT equality;

A challenge to homophobic and transphobic (anti-transgender) behaviour and the creation of a “welcoming sporting environment” for LGBT participants;

Greater inclusion of transgender people in sport by understanding their differing needs, and reducing barriers preventing them from taking part;

Policies with better understanding of the barriers faced by LGBT people;

Continuous improvements to increase LGBT involvement in sport.

The charter called for zero tolerance of homophobia, and said “robust” procedures to ­ensure incidents were quickly dealt with would be an important reassurance to LGBT ­people.

The 20-page document also features the “gay kiss” at the last year’s Commonwealth Games opening ceremony, in which actor John Barrowman embraced a male “bride” in a mock Gretna Green sequence. It was hailed as a riposte to the 42 of 53 Commonwealth countries at the Games which have anti-homosexual legislation.

The charter has been developed by the Scottish Government-funded Equality Network, which campaigns for LGBT and intersex people.

Development co-ordinator Scott Cuthbertson said it was “a visible commitment by those involved in the delivery of sport to take steps to address the issues and barriers LGBT people face, and to improve the involvement of LGBT people in Scottish sport.

“By working together, making changes and involving LGBT people more, Scottish sport can be the truly transformative experience for everyone, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.”

The body will call for everyone in sport to endorse the charter, including local authorities, leisure trusts, other sports facilities and local sports councils.

The 2012 Out for Sport report by the Equality Network revealed homophobia at all levels of Scottish sport from the grass roots to elite levels. It said that had prevented LGBT people from joining clubs, attending matches and fulfilling their sporting potential.

The study also found that despite stars such as Scottish cycling champion Graeme Obree coming out, the threat of abuse left many gay sports people feeling unable to be honest about their orientation. Football was seen to have the biggest problem with homophobia, followed by rugby, boxing and athletics.

The research showed that just one in 20 LGBT people thought enough was being done to tackle homophobia in sport, and more than half had either suffered or witnessed it.

The study also found that more than half of LGBT people would be more likely to take part in sport if it was more LGBT-friendly.

Abuse from spectators was cited as the main reason that so few elite athletes were openly homosexual, closely followed by potential damage to their career prospects and loss of earnings from sponsorship.

The Scottish Government welcomed the charter as “a vital frame of reference for securing the full inclusion of LGBT people in sport”.

Sports minister Jamie Hepburn said: “Equality was a central theme of the 2014 Commonwealth Games, with LGBT inclusion obvious in the opening ceremony, promoted by the flying of the rainbow flag from Scottish Government buildings, and further supported through the first Pride House at any Commonwealth Games.

“The Scottish Government is committed to building on these successes to challenge and remove the barriers to participation in sport, to promote equality of opportunity and to create a Scotland where the playing field is level for everyone.”

A spokeswoman for Stonewall Scotland said: “Sport plays a huge role in many people’s lives, but we believe more needs to be done to create an equal and welcoming environment for LGBT people.”

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