While there are an increasing number of reports of gay and lesbian elite sportspeople becoming more open about their sexuality, for LGBT equality campaigners the battle is still far from won.
The European Gay and Lesbian Sport Federation (EGLSF) are targeting young sports fans in the 11 to 16 age range, using game-based education to tackle homophobia and transphobia in sport.
Designed with an emphasis on fun and skills, ‘UpFront’ is a football gaming app that has been developed for mobile devices by the EGLSF.
Andrej Pisl, EGLSF development officer explains: ‘Education has a huge part to play in tackling discrimination, hate speech and violence in sport. We wanted to create an education tool that young people want to play first and foremost, that helps them understand that football should be for everyone.’
The launch of the game coincides with the release of a report by the European Union’s Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) into the experience of ‘Being LGBT in Europe’, which highlights persistent levels of discriminatory experience in schools by young LGBT people. It shows 91% of respondents in the research had ‘seen or heard negative comments or conduct before the age of 18 because a schoolmate was perceived to be LGBT’.
EGLSF co-president Armelle Mazé believes that: ‘Even in countries with robust protective legislation, the experience of young LGBT people remains negative, and homophobic and transphobic bullying remains rife.
‘Quite often sport, and in particular school sport, can be a focus for this. EGLSF is working to affect a culture change in sport throughout and this has to start with young people.’
The EGLSF’s development of the UpFront app is one of the outcomes of the Pride In Sport project that has been funded by the European Union.
As the EGLSF’s co-president Mazé explains: ‘Pride In Sport is a collective project which incorporated a number of activities across Europe with the aim to tackle prejudice and discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in sport. We were delighted with our success in receiving the funding and even more so with the outcomes of the work.
‘So much of the work of tackling discrimination in sport is about education, and young people are the key to making sport a welcoming place for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.’