A UK parliament select committee has called for a zero-tolerance approach and lengthy bans to tackle homophobia in sport.
A report published by the Culture, Media and Sport Committee found that football clubs in particular are not doing enough to challenge homophobic abuse in stadiums.
It said that a survey found 72 per cent of people had heard homophobic abuse, while noting that there are no openly gay footballers in the professional leagues.
Those found guilty of chanting homophobic abuse should be banned for between one and two years, the report says, and added that football has failed to reflect “the significant change in society’s attitudes to homosexuality in the last 30 years”.
The report also criticised the inclusion of former world heavyweight boxing champion Tyson Fury on the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year shortlist in 2015, stating “the inclusion of Tyson, despite a series of violently homophobic remarks, is symptomatic of homophobia not being taken seriously enough in sport, or the media that shows it.”
Damian Collins MP, chair of the committee, said via a news release: “From the evidence we have received in this inquiry, 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.
“Coming out is a personal and private decision and no sportsperson should feel under pressure or feel ‘forced’ to come out, but sports authorities must create an environment, in the stadium and the locker room, where players and athletes at all levels feel it is a choice they can make, and that they will be supported and accepted if they do.
“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 dealt with as severely. Clubs should also look to their own internal culture, and consider whether it would appear supportive to gay athletes.”
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