Australian sports bodies join forces to measure LGBTI inclusion

The Pride In Sport Index has been developed as a legacy of Australia's Anti-Homophobia and Inclusion Framework signed at the 2014 Bingham Cup. Joosep Martinson/Getty Images

Leading Australian sports bodies have joined force to measure their inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people within their organisations and competitions.

The Australian Rugby Union, National Rugby League, Australian Football League, Football Federation of Australia, Cricket Australia and Water Polo Australia will use the Pride In Sport Index, an independently administered national benchmarking framework, to measure their support of LGBTI players, staff, spectators and supporters.

The index developed by the Australian Human Rights Commission and the Australian Sports Commission and represents a legacy of the 2014 Bingham Cup in Sydney, at which Australia's major sporting codes signed up to the Australian Anti Homophobia and Inclusion Framework for Australian Sport.

The index provides all national and state sporting organisations with a framework by which to review, measure and monitor their LGBTI-related initiatives, programs and policies, with results to be published annually year. Awards will be provided to participating organisations and individuals demonstrating excellence in the promotion of LGBTI inclusion, with the first ceremony scheduled for May 2017 to acknowledge and reward efforts made during 2016.

The index was developed following the release in 2015 of the Out On The Fields study, results of which showed that "only 1 percent of respondents felt that [LGBTI] people were accepted in sporting culture, and almost 80 percent believed that openly [LGBTI] fans would not be safe as spectators".

Michael Thomson, Australian Sports Commission general manager participation and sustainable sport, said the Pride In Sport Index was established after those results because "sport should promote fairness, equity and integrity in sporting behaviour".

"Sport should be a place where people feel welcome and safe and where they are treated with respect and dignity," Mr Thomson said, while Australian Human Rights Commission president Professor Gillian Triggs said that all people had "the right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, regardless of their sexual orientation, sex or gender identity".

"The Australian Human Rights Commission welcomes the release of the inaugural Pride in Sport Index as an important contribution to ongoing efforts to overcome the barriers that prevent lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, gender diverse and intersex people from participating in sport," Professor Triggs said.

Australia's peak sports officials were unanimous in their willingness to accept the Pride in Sport Index.

FFA chief executive David Gallop said in announcing soccer's acceptance of the index that "it is the right of every player, coach, volunteer and fan to feel accepted, on and off the sporting field, regardless of their sexuality", while ARU chief Bill Pulver said that rugby, by committing to participate in the Pride in Sport Index, would "continue to strive for greater inclusion and constant improvement in our policies and behaviours throughout the game".

AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan said the league was "committed to being a sport that welcomes and supports everyone, and being part of the fight against homophobia", while Ellen Beale, the NRL's General Manager of Community, said the aim of the Pride in Sport Index fitted "perfectly with our core values of inclusiveness, courage and teamwork, and, as a game, we will continue to encourage and support everyone in society, no matter what their sexual orientation is".

Cricket Australia CEO James Sutherland said sport had "a unique ability to drive and support social change and, in recognising the Pride in Sport Index, Australian cricket further emphasises its commitment to ensure the genuine diversity and inclusiveness of our sport" and Water Polo Australia chief Chris Harrison was pleased to "extend that culture [of acceptance and acknowledgement of differences] nationally and welcome all into our sport and family".

A new program to complement the index -- Pride in Sport -- has been launched to provide member organisations with a range of services to help them "develop and implement effective LGBTI inclusion practices". The program is operated by New South Wales-based HIV and LGBTI health organisation ACON, and complements the organisation's Pride in Diversity program that works to address LGBTI-related discrimination and exclusion within Australian workplaces.

ACON vice-president and co-founder of the Pride in Sport Index Andrew Purchas said the index would be "more than just a signature on a piece paper".

"It will provide the means for sporting organisations to demonstrate how they're reducing homophobia and transphobia, and making sport more accessible for all," Mr Purchas said.

Dawn Hough, Director of ACON's Pride Inclusion Programs, said that Pride in Sport and the Pride In Sport Index together would "make a significant difference to the lives of LGBTI people, not only athletes and players, but staff, volunteers, officials, coaches, parents and spectators".