UK athletes including gay rugby legend Gareth Thomas are supporting a new report which found homophobia in schools puts many LGBT students off sport.
The study published today (31 October) by Britain's National Union of Students (NUS) found that almost half of those in college and university who do not participate in any sport at college or university (46.8%) find the culture of sport to be alienating and 41.9% said they had a negative experience at school which has meant that they don’t want to get involved.
Only a third (34.6%) of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans students at college or university participate in organised team sport and one in seven (14.3%) said that homophobia, biphobia, or transphobia had put them off participating in sport.
Many LGBT students (37.8%) who do take part in sport are not open about their sexuality with teammates or coaches.
The most popular suggestion for improving inclusion of LGBT students in sport among 48.3% of those surveyed was to tackle the wider issue of homophobia, biphobia and transphobia in schools.
The NUS’ Out in Sport report also recommends that sports teams publicly demonstrate their inclusiveness and make clear they will not tolerate abuse and calls on students’ unions to take a lead in ensuring that sports facilities, teams and staff are LGBT-friendly and that schools teach LGBT inclusiveness in sports.
High profile national sports stars have come out in support of the report, with gay former Welsh rugby star Gareth Thomas calling the report 'ground-breaking'.
The 38-year-old said: 'Attitudes have changed and the time is right for sport to start accepting openly gay people in the same way other areas of society have in recent years.'
Steven Davies, Surrey and England cricketer, also sang the report's praises, applauding it for sending a 'positive message' to LGBT youngsters.
'Most LGBT students participate in individual sport or fitness activity through their students’ union or university, and as the report shows, most have a positive experience,' he said.
'But too many who don’t participate in sport find the culture around sport alienating or unwelcoming, and many had negative experiences at school or experienced discrimination which put them off participating.'