(Blogmensgo, gay blog of February 15, 2017) The committee for Culture, Media and Sport of the UK House of Commons pleads for draconian measures against homophobia in sports, particularly in football, and for more severe sanctions against wrongdoers. In a parliamentarian report published on February 12, 2017, the committee recommends zero tolerance against homophobia on all sports levels. The committee presided by MP Damian Collins particularly underlines the lack of measures so far and would like to see a whole number of Premier League players and other top athletes to come out of the closet.
An earlier report from 2012 had already found that racism and homophobia are quite prevalent and persistent in sports, particularly in football.
The current report talks about sports in general but focuses on football: No top-level player has yet publicly come out of the closet.
Report: Deficits on all levels
Damian Collins, chairman of the British Parliament committee in question, points out how important it is to create an environment that welcomes gay and lesbian athletes, independently of their age, level, sport or their status as amateurs or professionals, be it in the stadium or the locker rooms, at home or in the media, from the grassroots to the officials level.
Although coming out of the closet is a very personal decision, it is certainly a lot easier in an open and gay-friendly environment.
The report states that, aside from very few more tolerant areas, British sports, particularly top-level football, is marked by homophobia. Currently, each club or federation can decide on possible sanctions for wrongdoing.
We believe that there are many gay athletes who have not come out, because they are frightened of the impact this decision will have on their careers, and the lives of the people they love. That is not acceptable and should not be tolerated.
(Damian Collins, chairman of the sports committee in the UK House of Commons)
Recommendations: Zero tolerance for homophobic behavior
Here are some of the many suggestions of the report by the committee presided by Damian Collins:
- Federations and national leagues: Long-term multimedia campaigns for prevention and fight against homophobia. Clear bans of homophobic comments and actions as well as, progressive sanctions for sports on all levels.
- Clubs (particularly in football): Stadium ban of one to two years for fans caught making homophobic comments or actions. This already happened when two fans insulted the openly gay Welsh rugby referee Nigel Owens. The club DNA has to be prepared for the possible presence of gay athletes.
- Referees, officials, coaches: Reporting any homophobic statements or actions on the sports fields, even if they come from parents of child team players.
- Media: Homophobia may not be trivialized. The Parliament committee expressed its shock about the Tyson Fury’s election as athlete of the year because he is known for his anti-gay statements.
- Amateur sports: Schools, clubs and youth teams have to become more open and inclusive of LGBT diversity.
- Sponsors: Contracts with athletes and players must clearly stipulate that a possible coming-out will not jeopardize an existing contract. Clearly visible support for homosexual athletes.
- Athletes and players: Better support for professional athletes with their coming-out.
This report is definitely a clear signal and a good start although a much better and more effective solution would be a law against homophobia in sports. But who knows, this report may well prove to be the first step in the right direction.