AraftofnewinitiativeslookingtoprovidemoresupportforLGBTIfansandplayers arebeing rolledouttoAustralianstatefootballfederationsthisweek,aspartofthecountry’sfootballgoverningbody’s (FFA)plantoaddresshomophobiaandincreaseLGBTIparticipationinfootball.
The three point inclusion strategy will see an advisory committee, constituted of football and LGBTI community representatives, focus on training, leadership and partnerships to address the issue.
The initiative comes after the FFA missed an August deadline to implement LGBTI inclusion policies following the signing of groundbreaking Anti-Homophobia and Inclusion Framework earlier this year. In April, representatives of Australia’s major sports, including the Australian Rugby Union (ARU), the Australian Football League (AFL), FFA and Cricket Australia, jointly committed to develop new strategies to address the problem within their sports.
FFA Head of Women’s and Community Football, Emma Highwood said: “We may have missed the initial timeline but from our perspective we’ve taken the time to roll out what is sustainable and support what will work,
“Signing up to the Anti-Homophobia Framework has really put this on our agenda.”
In July, a study commissioned by organisers of the 2014 Bingham Cup – also known as the Gay Rugby World Cup – revealed that eighty-five per cent of the Australian gay and bisexual athletes have experienced or witnessed homophobic abuse, either while playing or as a spectator. The findings pointed out that discrimination based on sexual orientation was forcing people out of sport.
“Embracing that inclusive spirit”
Joseph Roppolo, president of gay and inclusive football club the Sydney Rangers, welcomed the new strategy plan and said the FFA were “making the right sounds”.
He also noted Sydney FC’s official support of last month’s 2014 Pride Football Australia championships.
“We are being taken more notice of and it’s reassuring to know football is embracing that inclusive spirit,” said Rappolo, while adding a note of caution: “I don’t think they’re playing catch up [with other sports] but it will be interesting to see how the FFA deal with [homophobic] incidents other codes have had to face.”
Andrew Purchas, President of Bingham Cup Sydney 2014 and one of the driving forces behind the anti-homophobia framework, confirmed the organisation had met the FFA in recent weeks to discuss their LGBTI inclusion proposals.
He welcomed the code’s efforts saying, “what they are planning is certainly significantly more than education,” a reference to the limit of soccer’s previous commitment to promoting LGBTI inclusion.
The Bingham Cup plans to release a report on the progress made by the sporting codes on LGBTI inclusion next year.