Sport celebrates diversity on IDAHOT17 May 2015

In2015,andforthefirsttime,FareandtheinternationalinitiativeFootballvHomophobia(FvH)joinedforcestofurtherdebatesandactionontheissuesaroundhomophobia,sexismandLGBTparticipationinfootballontheInternationalDay AgainstHomophobia,TransphobiaandBiphobia(IDAHOT),17May.

A total of ten groups in countries including Bulgaria, Cameroon, Czech Republic, Greece, Israel, Italy, Mexico and Serbia received a Fare and FvH small grant to run football related activities and celebrate diversity in the game on IDAHOT. Initiatives included anti-homophobia campaigns in stadiums, football tournaments, conferences, panel discussions and social gatherings.

The small grants scheme followed the work initiated by Fare and FvH in 2011 to remove prejudice based on gender identity and sexual orientation from football and to take a clear stand against LGBT discrimination, as well as the support to the Football v Homophobia Month of Action in February.

The initiative is one among a vast range of actions that clubs, fans, activists and campaigners around the world organised to address LGBT discrimination and mark the day.

UEFA highlight football’s role as a catalyst for change
On the day, Europe’s football governing body UEFA sent a message to promote tolerance and acceptance.

UEFA ambassador for diversity and change Clarence Seedorf stressed the role of football as a catalyst for change and said: “As the world’s most popular sport, football has the power to have social impact and to be a force for good.

“As UEFA global ambassador for diversity and change, I call on everyone to be accepting of one another and embrace diversity.”

‘Blow the whistle against homophobia’
In France, a new campaign, launched by the French Ministry of Sport, is calling on athletes and the general public to stand together against intolerance by ‘blowing the whistle against homophobia’.

The ‘Coupe de Sifflet‘ campaign, in English ‘Blow the whistle’, backed by French sport stars, including the former France defender Lilian Thuram, Manchester United legend Eric Cantona, track and field athlete Murielle Hurtis and nine-time world champion in track cycling Grégory Baugé, aims to raise awareness of all kinds of discrimination with a special focus on homophobia.

A video featuring French sporting stars and teams is hoping to engage the general public in sharing their videos blowing a whistle as a way to show their support to the campaign. The initiative kicked-off in Paris on Wednesday 13 May and will run until 19 May.

Former Olympian Maguy Nestoret-Ontanon said: “This is an initiative that we hope will become a nation-wide campaign.”

“We want to use it to tackle the day-to-day homophobic slurs, we are all responsible for both letting them exist and for tackling them.”

Three other actions will follow the campaign between November 2015 and March 2016, each of them dedicated to address a specific type of discrimination, including racism and anti-Semitism.

‘We play as a team, we celebrate respect’
In an unprecedented move, Europe giants FC Barcelona have also joined the IDAHOT celebrations. The club, via their Foundation, pledged to promote diversity and respect with regards to sexual orientation in the field of sport. The pledge was made during an official event held on Thursday (14 May) under the title ‘Barça against homophobia’.

In the manifesto, signed at the event, FC Barcelona committed to include the fight against homophobia and discrimination of any type in sport into the Law 19/2007 of 11 July against violence, racism, xenophobia and intolerance in sport and ensure the spreading of positive messages on tolerance, respect and dignity with regards to sexual orientation.

As part of this commitment, the club created a promotional campaign under the heading ‘We play as a team, we celebrate respect’, which includes a video that supports the fight against homophobia and that is based on the commentary of a goal from Andrés Iniesta. The Barça midfielder is one of FC Barcelona sportsmen taking part in the video.

Amateur clubs in Berlin and Munich, Germany, will also mark the day by displaying red cards to homophobia at the weekend’s matches and engage in flash mobs and other activities to highlight the day.

Other sports have also followed football’s steps in celebrating IDAHOT.

The Australian Football League (AFL) came out strongly against homophobia. Club captains, managers and the bosses of the AFL Players Association and AFL, have united in a social media campaign around the day.

In rugby union, international stars from different countries have united to publicly condemn homophobia in sport. English star James Haskell, Welsh player Alex Cuthbert as well as Australian Rugby legend John Eales have all backed a statement specifically calling for an end to homophobic language.

They join a number of other rugby stars that have previously condemn homophobia, including the openly gay former Welsh player Gareth Thomas, the Australian star David Pocock as well as the gay rugby referee Nigel Owens who said homophobia has been tolerated for “too long.”

The initiative comes after first international study found widespread homophobia in UK and international sport. According to the Out on the fields study 77% of UK participants in the study had ‘witnessed or experienced homophobia’ around sport, verbal slurs such as ‘faggot’ or ‘dyke’ as well as jokes about gay people were the most common forms of homophobia reported.

In repose to the study, the international rugby governing body reaffirmed its recent commitment to eliminate discrimination from the game.

James Haskell said: “Everyone should be able to play and enjoy sport without fear of discrimination. Homophobic language can be harmful to those struggling with their sexuality and it makes people feel unwelcome to play sport.

“We want to send a strong message to everyone involved in sport that homophobic language and behaviour is not acceptable.”