UK report calls on sport authorities to adopt ‘zero tolerance’ to homophobic abuse13 February 2017

Immediateandtoughsanctionsincludingoneandtwo-yearbansshouldbeimposedonfootballsupporterswhoengageinhomophobicabuse,areportbytheEnglishparliamentaryselectcommitteeforculture,mediaandsporthasrecommended. 

Following a short inquiry held last year, the report cites a range of surveys and research demonstrating homophobia is a major problem in school, youth and professional sports and recommends a zero-tolerance approach combined with better training and education for staff at all levels.

“It is clear to us that the casual use of homophobic epithets and terms has a wide-ranging and damaging effect and we consider it disappointing that a significant percentage of people consider anti-LGB language to be harmless,” the report says. “It should be treated in the same way as other offensive language, whether racist, sexist or denigrating any other group.”

A 2015 study of attitudes internationally, Out on the Fields, reported 84% of participants having heard homophobic jokes within sport, and a 2015 survey by Stonewall found that 72% of football supporters had heard homophobic abuse in grounds.

The committee, chaired by the Conservative MP Damian Collins, argues that football, which does not have any openly gay current professional players, has a more hostile culture of homophobia than other sports, including swimming, whose work is commended, and rugby union and league, where there are high-profile gay role models and strong action has been taken against incidents of homophobic abuse.

Greg Clarke, the chairman of the Football Association, told the committee that he could understand a gay male professional footballer not wanting to come out publicly, for fear of the abuse he was likely to suffer.

“There is a very, very small minority of people who hurl vile abuse at people who they perceive are different. Our job is to stamp down hard on that behaviour. That behaviour is disgusting and needs stamping out and I am absolutely determined that we do stamp it out. If I was a gay man, why would I expose myself to that?” Clarke told the committee.

The committee found that attitudes to gay women footballers, where some players and the former England manager, Hope Powell, are out, were much more accepting; in fact it cites women footballers’ frustrations that they are assumed to be gay.

Referring to youth sport, the Out on the Fields report found that  70% of British respondents did not believe that youth sport was supportive and safe for lesbian, gay and bisexual participants. The committee’s report highlights a “significantly higher” drop-out rate among LGB young people compared with heterosexual participants in sport.

The survey found 70% of young British men under 22 who participated in the survey kept their sexuality fully or partly hidden from team-mates, out of a fear of bullying, being rejected by team-mates and discrimination from officials.

Calling for a zero-tolerance approach to homophobia across all sports, Collins said: “More needs to be done by the authorities to address both the overt and latent homophobia that exists within sport. Homophobic abuse in sports grounds is just as intolerable as racist behaviour and should be dealt with just as severely.”

From The Guardian

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