• As a teen, Simon Dunn questioned if a gay man could excel or even be part of the sporting environment. (Supplied)Source: Supplied
A new benchmarking system will provide the opportunity for all national and state sporting organisations to have their LGBTI-related initiatives, programs and policies reviewed
By
Drew Sheldrick

16 Mar 2016 - 9:38 AM  UPDATED 22 Mar 2016 - 9:44 AM

Six major Australian sporting codes, including all professional football codes, have signed up to a new national benchmarking framework called the Pride in Sport Index (PSI).

The PSI will be used by the Australian Rugby Union, National Rugby League, Australian Football League, Football Federation of Australia, Cricket Australia and Water Polo Australia to regularly measure how they support their lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) players, staff, spectators and supporters.

The index has been developed following the release of the Out On The Fields study in 2015, which found only 1 per cent of respondents felt that same sex-attracted people were accepted in sporting culture, and almost 80 per cent believed that openly gay fans would not be safe as spectators.

Former rugby player Simon Dunn, who is now an Olympic bobsleigh hopeful, said he gave up on hopes of a professional rugby career because of the stigma associated with being openly gay in Australian sporting culture.

"Week in and week out you’d hear the opposition or weaker players being called 'faggots'. Those watching the game would do the same." he said.

"As a teen I started to believe in this and questioned if a gay man could excel or even be part of the sporting environment. When you’re questioning yourself every time you run on to the field, the fun and love for the sport quickly disappears."

"I came out in my final year of high school, and within my own club my team mates - who I’d played with for years - questioned my place on the team and publicly expressed not wanting to be in the scrum with me. So if this was the reaction from my own 'friends', you can only imagine what the opposition was like. So I gave it up."

Dunn, who is now based in Calgary, Canada, said the PSI would be important for holding sporting organisations accountable in their efforts to stamp out homophobic behaviour.

"Unfortunately, the sporting world isn’t full of David Pococks and the LGBTI community generally don’t make up a large or visible part of the codes' fan base," he said.

"It seems they’ve been able to ignore and sweep the issue under the rug for way too long. Having this code makes their efforts - or lack thereof - noticeable."

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PSI results will be published every year to show how participating organisations measure up, and awards will be provided to participating organisations and individuals demonstrating excellence in the promotion of LGBTI inclusion. The first awards ceremony will be held in May 2017.

Co-founder of the PSI, Andrew Purchas, said the index will 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," he said.

Australian Rugby Union CEO Bill Pulver said Australian rugby is committed to providing environments where everyone involved is treated with respect and dignity.

"By committing to participate in the Pride in Sport Index Australian Rugby will continue to strive for greater inclusion and constant improvement in our policies and behaviours throughout the game. Every individual, whether they’re players, supporters, coaches or administrators should feel safe, welcome and included, regardless of race, gender or sexuality.”

Cricket Australia’s CEO James Sutherland said there is no place for homophobia in cricket either.

"Sport has 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," he said.

"Our vision is to be a sport for all Australians, irrespective of gender, sexuality, religion or background.  We believe that the Index will play an important role in supporting our efforts to eradicate homophobia in cricket."