Pride Sports was established in Manchester in 2006. At the time, it was envisaged the sports development and inclusion organisation would solely provide support for local LGBTQ+ sports activation, which was being led by volunteers at the time.
However, within the space of two years Pride Sports was working across England.
This growth was the result both of the organisation’s own practice insight, as well as the publication of a report commissioned by the UK sports councils ‘A Literature Review on Sexual Orientation In Sport’ (Brackenridge, 2008).
This report found that ‘whilst there is a basic awareness among stakeholders that there are issues relating to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual people that have to do with participation, discrimination and homophobia in sport, there is a lack of expertise – and in some cases desire – to do what is required to address them’. It also found that ‘lack of data and evidence means these issues can be ignored or remain hidden’.
Now in its 15th year of operation, Pride Sports is reflecting during LGBT+ History Month, on what has changed.
The introduction of the Equality Act 2010 and a focus on LGBTQ+ inclusion at the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games led to the UK Government launching a ‘Charter for Action’ to tackle homophobia and transphobia in sport.
Whilst there was no actual enforcement of the commitments made by signatories, signing the Charter marked the first time that many stakeholders had considered issues of LGBTQ+ inclusion at all, or made visible their support for LGBTQ+ people.
In 2013, the Sports Council Equality Group published guidance on the participation of trans people in domestic competition in the UK. This resulted in many national governing bodies (NGBs) developing policies which have enabled trans people – one of the most excluded groups in the UK, with some of the poorest health outcomes – to better access organised sport.
Pride Sports’ report ‘Sport, Physical Activity and LGBT’, commissioned by Sport England in 2016, provided a much-needed overview of the sport and physical activity landscape for LGBTQ+ people in England.
Further insight commissioned by us has subsequently shown that LGBTQ+ people still prefer solitary, informal sport and physical activity to organised team sport and that this is likely to be linked to negative experiences of school sport. There is undoubtedly still work to be done in school sport and PE.
In many ways, we now know more about LGBTQ+ participation in sport and physical activity than ever before. However, our sector still lacks valuable insight in some areas.
Unfortunately, many stakeholders are still not asking sexual orientation and gender identity questions in their background monitoring, even though this is now commonplace in other sectors.
We also see a lack of action on LGBTQ+ inclusion at board level. How many organisations are monitoring, publishing data and setting targets on the inclusion of LGBTQ+ people in their governance bodies?
One of the most encouraging recent examples of positive change has been the emergence of LGBTQ+ networks, which are providing forums to bring LGBTQ+ people together, to be visible, share experiences within their sports and support inclusive change.
These networks are already established in athletics, aquatics and horse racing, with further networks emerging this year. So, if these networks have the same impact as LGBTQ+ fan groups have had in professional football, we are about to witness a seismic change!
Some great work on LGBTQ+ inclusion has been undertaken by sports NGBs, whilst innovative initiatives focusing on the workforce are taking place at a local level, through active partnerships such as Energise Me in Hampshire and Living Sport in Cambridgeshire.
One of the most encouraging recent examples of positive change has been the emergence of LGBTQ+ networks.
At the same time, we have also seen an explosion in the LGBTQ+ sport and physical activity sector, with more than 220 sport and physical activity groups delivering week in, week out (pre-coronavirus) to LGBTQ+ communities around the UK.
Most recently, during lockdown, these groups have provided a lifeline for many members experiencing isolation.
We are facing new challenges in 2021, with a growth in LGBTQ+ hate crime over the past five years and an emerging anti-equality movement. The challenge now for the sport and physical activity sector is to build on the work undertaken since the Equality Act came into force and embed LGBTQ+ inclusion at all levels, to ensure greater understanding of barriers to participation and to be creative and targeted in our solutions