NZ sports should adopt zero tolerance for homophobia - study

NZR Chief Executive Steve Tew.
NZR Chief Executive Steve Tew.

A new report by a University of Otago researcher recommends New Zealand national sporting bodies should adopt a policy of zero tolerance for homophobia and other discriminatory behaviour.

The report, "Anti-homophobia and inclusion policies in New Zealand Sport Organisations", was prepared by sport management researcher Dr Sally Shaw of Otago's School of Physical Education, Sport and Exercise Sciences. It reviewed how six national sporting bodies - rugby, cricket, league, netball, football and hockey - are addressing change policies in these areas.

The research, based on workshops and interviews, found homophobia was identified as an issue by most of the participating bodies.

It recommends organisations adopt clear anti-discrimination and inclusion policies and education programmes, and zero tolerance policies should cover players, coaches, administrators and fans.

The report says in developing and implementing the policies, the bodies should seek support from organisations such as Rainbow Tick and draw on work done by sport organisations in other countries.

It urged organisations to reach out to lesbian, gay and bisexual and other marginalised groups within their sports, particularly among youth.

"Young lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) athletes are far more likely to stay in the closet because of fear of bullying and discrimination than older athletes," Dr Shaw said.

Her report cites 2015 research showing 81 per cent of New Zealand's gay sportsmen and 74 per cent of lesbian sportswomen under the age of 22 reported being partially or totally in the closet with their team-mates.

Dr Shaw said it came through strongly that the study participants showed genuine commitment and goodwill towards bringing about change and inclusivity.

The governing bodies had agreed to establishing such a framework by December 31.

In May, New Zealand Rugby chief executive Steve Tew said the sports-led approach stemmed from a common desire to do more following the findings of the Out on the Fields research in 2015, the first international study on homophobia in sport.

"In working alongside other major sports, we've seen that rugby is not unique in the challenges it faces to be considered truly inclusive in terms of gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation and ability.

"This is not about creating a single policy aimed at one particular area of inclusion, but teaming up with other sports to get the message across that everyone should be encouraged and be able to participate and enjoy sport without prejudice and in welcoming environments."

- NZ Herald

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