This week, I am so incredibly proud of Australian sport.
Because something major has happened. Something incredible. Something that sets us apart from the rest of the world.
And it’s this – the “You Can Play” campaign from the Bingham Cup (above).
Essentially, it’s a campaign that has brought together all the major professional sports in Australia and allowed them to collectively commit to implementing policies that will make their sports welcome to lesbian, gay and bisexual people – whether those people are players, coaches, administrators or fans.
The sports involved are:
– The Australian Football League
– Australia Rugby Union
– The National Rugby League
– The Football Federation Australia
– Cricket Australia
The CEOs of each organisation have signed a commitment to eliminate homophobia in their sport. And this is the first time in the entire world that such a commitment has been undertaken by such major sports.
This whole initiative came about because of the organisers of Bingham Cup Sydney 2014, the World Cup of gay rugby. It’s an event running in August this year, with major sponsors and up to 2,000 players and fans expected to attend.
The Sydney Convicts, Australia’s first gay rugby union club, also pushed for the commitment to take place. They’re a club that has been around since 2004, welcoming players from all levels of experience so that they can play in a prejudice-free environment.
Andrew Purchas, the President of Bingham Cup Sydney 2014 and Founder of the Sydney Convicts Rugby Club, had this to say about the “You Can Play” initiative:
Many gay, lesbian and bisexual people still stay in the closet, or drop out of sport altogether, because of homophobic attitudes and discrimination in sport. 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. With these initiatives, we hope to see significant changes to sporting culture. The major professional sporting codes are committed to do more than ban homophobic sledges. They have committed to create encouraging and welcoming sporting environments for gay, lesbian and bisexual people, whether they participate as players, officials or supporters.
“Okay,” I hear you say. “This is good but what difference is it ACTUALLY going to make?”
Happily, the five major sports involved in this campaign haven’t just signed a sheet of paper and walked away from the project. They’ve also committed to a timeline and will agree to implement policies and changes that are consistent with a brand-new Anti-Homophobia and Inclusion Framework.
This will all happen by the end of August, 2014 – just in time for the Bingham Cup.
For far too long, football, soccer, rugby and cricket have been one big boys’ club – only suitable to a very certain type of guy. And life has been unnecessarily harsh to those who don’t fit the exact stereotype that’s well-suited to these sports. For far too long, there has been bullying and there has been exclusion.
Finally, everyone from Mitchell Johnson to Libby Trickett have gathered to say: it doesn’t matter who you are or how you define yourself. All that matters in sport is your ability, your attitude and your effort.
“If you can play, you can play.”
I’m proud of you, Australian sport. And everyone else should be too.
The 2014 Bingham Cup, the world cup of gay rugby, is being held in Sydney from August 24 to 31. Major sponsors include Commonwealth Bank, Telstraand Destination NSW. The biennial tournament is being hosted by the Sydney Convicts in partnership with the Melbourne Chargers and Brisbane Hustlers (Australia’s other gay rugby union teams). Approximately 2,000 players and direct supporters are expected to attend as well as international gay media. The competition is named after Mark Bingham, a member of the San Francisco gay rugby union team who died on United Airlines Flight 93 on September 11. It’s believed he was one of the passengers who tackled the terrorists on-board, causing the plane to crash in a field.
Originally appeared at Mamamia.com.au