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Businesses and athletes unite to combat LGBTI discrimination in sport

Businesses and athletes unite to combat LGBTI discrimination in sport

Stonewall have sent rainbow laces to soccer players across the UK to help raise awareness about LGBTI inclusion

A landmark conference will take place in London next week to address the issue of LGBTI discrimination in sport

Team Pride: Levelling the LGBT Playing Field has been organized by 
several major businesses – many of whom sponsor sporting events, teams and athletes – including Accenture, adidas Group, Aon, Aviva, Barclays, Credit Suisse and EY.

Arguably the world’s most famous soccer team, Manchester United, are involved, as well as advocacy groups Stonewall, OUTstanding and Leaders in Sport.

Other organizations expected to attend include AIG, Arsenal, British Olympic Association, GE, HCL Technologies, NFL UK, Premier League, Premiership Rugby, Santander, Sky and UK Sport.

Phil Clement, global chief marketing officer for Aon and a lead organizer of the conference, said in a statement, ‘Sport has an incredible ability to break barriers and be a catalyst for positive social change.’

‘However, despite recent stories of players and officials coming out, sport arguably has some way to go in taking full advantage of an inclusive industry where all LGBT individuals are accepted and able to bring their “whole selves to work.”’

His sentiments were echoed by Richard Arnold, managing director of Manchester United and a member of the Team Pride conference organizing committee: ‘We are committed to creating and promoting an environment of inclusion through all our interactions as a club.

‘This is a critical forum for stakeholders working in and around sport to drive an inclusive culture across the industry and, ultimately, have a greater impact on society.’

Rugby League player Keegan Hirst came out as gay in 2015
Rugby League player Keegan Hirst came out as gay in 2015

The 11 February conference will take place at the Leadenhall Building, Level 42, in the city district of London. It will feature Nicola Adams (Olympic boxing gold medal winner) and Keegan Hirst (professional rugby league player) talking about the challenges of coming out; a talk from Stonewall’s Ruth Hunt and OUTstanding’s Suki Sandhu on the importance of allies; and a presentation from Arsenal Communications Director Mark Gonnella on HR training for employees and the launch of the acclaimed Stonewall rainbow laces campaign.

Also taking part is former pro-NBA player John Amaechi OBE, who will talk on the state of LGBT inclusion, and how business, sporting and philanthropic organizations can help to break down barriers.

A spokesperson for Stonewall told Gay Star Business: ‘Sport is one area where lesbian, gay, bi and trans people often feel unwelcome, or even excluded, not only as participants but even cheering in the crowds. It’s extremely important that we kick discrimination out of sport – and it’s fantastic to see businesses come together and make a stand to help us do that.’

Arsenal FC have been a high profile supporter of Stonewall’s Rainbow Laces campaign, in which every professional soccer player in the UK received laces in order to show their support for LGBTI inclusion. There are signs that other teams are now waking up to the benefits of championing diversity.

It was announced this week that one of London’s leading LGBT soccer teams, London Titans, had entered into a community partnership deal with Championship side Queens Park Rangers.

The deal will see the possible development of an LGBT supporters group for the club, coaching tutorials for Titans’ players from qualified QPR staff, and support in fundraising initiatives.

Stuart Forward, of the Titans, says it’s one way in which the sporting world can foster an atmosphere of inclusivity and send out a message that it welcomes diversity. In a statement to Gay Star Business, he welcomed news of the Team Pride conference:

‘As attitudes have evolved, and preconceptions continue to change, it is really positive to see an appetite from established football teams and brands to engage with their LGBT fans and the wider LGBT sporting community.’

Players with the London Titans football team
Players with the London Titans football team