Australian sports unite in vow to stamp out homophobia

Australian sports unite in vow to stamp out homophobia
File photo of pro-gay activists at Flinders Street Railway Station in Melbourne hold up placards asking Sochi Winter Olympic sponsors to speak out against Russia's anti-gay laws.

SYDNEY - The heads of Australia's major sporting codes - cricket, rugby union, rugby league, football and Aussie rules - pledged Wednesday to eliminate homophobia in a coordinated effort that organisers said was a world first.

The five sports committed to creating sporting cultures which were welcoming to gay, lesbian and bisexual people and to implement new anti-homophobia policies ahead of gay rugby's Bingham Cup in Sydney later this year.

"We are certain that this is a world first where all the major professional sports of Australia have committed to an anti-homophobic policy and committed to a time line in which it will be implemented," Bingham Cup Sydney 2014 president Andrew Purchas told AFP.

Purchas said the policies were important because many gay, lesbian and bisexual players still stayed in the closet, or dropped out of sport altogether, because of homophobic attitudes and discrimination.

"We have very few gay professional sportspeople who have felt safe to be open about their sexuality while competing and ultimately be role models to others," he said.

Purchas, who founded the Australia's first gay rugby union club the Sydney Convicts, said he hoped the initiative would bring significant change to sporting culture.

"Discrimination in sport is something we see globally. In fact, sport is one of the last places in western societies where gay, lesbian and bisexual people still struggle to be accepted," he said.

The five sports have committed to implement a new anti-homophobia and inclusion framework by August, when Sydney hosts the Bingham Cup from August 24 to 31.

The framework, based on international best practice, is designed to guide sports in creating and putting into practice policies, rules and changes which welcome gay, lesbian and bisexual people.

The Bingham Cup is named after Mark Bingham, a member of the San Francisco gay rugby union team who died on the hijacked United Airlines Flight 93 on September 11, 2001.

It is thought he was one of the passengers who tackled the terrorists onboard, causing the plane to crash in a field in Pennsylvania.

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