Gregg Homme
Sport Allies, the charity which promotes inclusive sport and is funded in part from the Warwick Rowers Naked Calendar project has just announced its report into Homophobia, Gender and Sporting Culture. The report which was launched at the House of Commons urges coaches at grassroots and professional level to ban homophobic language in all sports and to remove barriers to participation in team sport for LGBT+ individuals.

Warwick Rowers launch the Sport Allies Report at Parliament. Photo: Angus Malcolm

The charity's report on homophobia within sport has found that the sporting world is a "hostile and exclusive environment" for LGBT+ individuals.

The report, commissioned by Sport Allies, urges sporting bodies and authorities to recognise that in order for there to be true equality of opportunity when it comes to sport participation, coaches, teams and players must ban homophobic language. Authored by Adam Lowe MSc and Professor Brendan Gough of Leeds Beckett University, the report states that hegemonic masculinity, attitudes encoded within society and harassment at school mean LGBT+ individuals are much less likely to participate in team sports than straight people.

The report says:

For many people in Western society, and especially those who identify as LGBT, the sporting world is a hostile and exclusive environment. Team sports, enshrined as they are in the school/student experience, lie at the heart of the problem. From the ubiquitous threat of violence, to the routine use of homophobic language, the perceived "weakness" of being anything less than the traditional masculine ideal is actively and aggressively policed and excluded.

To change that, homophobic language must be banned from the pitch, pool, field and beyond. In its conclusion, the authors write:

Those involved in sport, both at professional and educational levels can begin to change the culture by fostering an atmosphere of acceptance of diversity. Homophobic, sexist and heterosexist language should not be tolerated; commonly held misapprehensions based on gender should be challenged both by bystanders but also by providing an environment where those who challenge these misconceptions can flourish and have their achievements recognised.

One of the many pictures featured in the Warwick Rowers Calendar 2018. Photo: Angus Malcolm

Sport Allies stemmed from the Warwick Rowers annual naked calendar. The calendar, featuring male university rowers, has become an international phenomenon, drawing support from the likes of Kylie Minogue and Sir Ian McKellen. It began as a way to raise money for university rowing, but after becoming popular among the gay community, the Rowers decided to give back to their gay fans firstly by formalising the calendar's anti-homophobia message, and then by setting up Sport Allies to encourage sport generally to play a stronger role in promoting LGBT and gender equality.

Rower Tristan says:

There's a reason employers highly regard participation in team sports when recruiting university graduates. Team sport is a platform to develop and demonstrate skills in commitment, time management, teamwork and resilience. Sporty LGBT people attending university are far less likely to engage in team sport than their heterosexual counterparts, which not only harms LGBT people but also heterosexual people who may struggle to build healthy relationships with members of the LGBT community, something required in modern society.

Sport Allies founder and LGBT+ rights campaigner Angus Malcolm shot the first Rowers calendar in 2009, and has fostered the project to its current global fame. He spoke of the "healing effect" the calendar had on him, and other gay men who felt excluded from sport, saying:

The rowing team soon began to receive expressions of gratitude from gay men around the world for their candour in embracing their gay fans. They saw it as a message of solidarity in the fight against homophobia. All of us working on the project were incredibly moved by these very personal messages and the result was that we decided to dedicate the calendar to challenging homophobia. It was a decision that would transform the calendar, and cement our partnership as a true gay/straight alliance.

An indication of the effect of the project on its contributors is that, although almost all of the Rowers are heterosexual, they are unanimously proud of their status as LGBT+. (The term "ally" is part of the "+" in "LGBT+", and the straight Rowers class themselves as allies).

Now a registered charity, Sport Allies operates on four key principles:

  • Without inclusivity, there can never be equality of opportunity.

  • Everyone should have the opportunity to explore their talent and turn it into personal success and a positive contribution to society.

  • Any group of people - whether a corporate board or a sports team - will become stronger by recruiting from the entire pool of talent.

  • Team sport offers unique opportunities for promoting diversity and enabling personal growth.

The cover of the Warwick Rowers Calendar 2018. Photo: Angus Malcolm

You can purchase a Calendar direct from the Warwick Rowers Website for just £14.99. On the site you'll also find loads of other items including photo sets, film downloads, signed limited editions and picture profiles of some the guys.

A proportion of every sale is donated to Sport Allies, the charity that aims to combat homophobia in team sports.

We'll have a full interview with the Warwick Rowers 2018 Calendar Boys next month on OutUK.

See the Sport Allies website: sportallies.org
Tweet Sport Allies @SportAllies: twitter.com/SportAllies
Find Sport Allies on Facebook here: facebook.com/SportAlliesCharity

 

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