Study reveals sports most notorious for homophobic and transphobic abuse

football v homophobia

Football, cricket and tennis have been flagged among sporting events where LGBTQ+ fans face the most homophobic or transphobic abuse.

Research by OnePoll has revealed that one in three queer adults have experienced anti-LGBTQ+ hate at live sport events.

The study gathered experiences from a group of 1000 LGBTQ+ people, with a staggering 53 per cent of participants reporting that they had encountered problems at live events while watching men’s football, compared with 23 per cent while watching women’s football. 

Similarly, more than half of those surveyed (54 per cent) had witnessed homophobic or transphobic abuse aimed at another person, with football, rugby, basketball and Formula 1 being the named the sports where this was most likely to occur.

Forty-nine per cent said the abuse was directed at those watching the game, while 23 per cent saw the players targeted and 27 per cent revealed they saw both groups abused. 

Cricket, swimming and tennis were also highlighted as events where LGBTQ+ adults have experienced homophobic or transphobic abuse, The Independent reported.

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Jon Holmes, the founder and lead of network, advocacy and consultancy group Sports Media LGBT+, told PinkNews that the findings are in line with “those from other research”.

Holmes said the results are “likely to also reflect a recent surge in anti-LGBTQ+ language and behaviour in men’s professional football, which is the live sporting event most frequently attended by UK fans”. 

Abusers justify homophobic or transphobic comments as ‘banter’

When asked about experiencing homophobic or transphobic abuse while sitting at stands, a total of 34 per cent of participants said they had been subjected to hateful conduct an average of four times while attending live sporting events. 

Four in 10 of those surveyed said they felt unwelcome due to their gender identity or sexuality. 

Unfortunately the discrimination didn’t end there, as 38 per cent of those who play in a team shared that they had come up against abuse from their own side due to their sexuality. 

Nearly half (46 per cent) of those confronted the person responsible for the abuse, but 32 per cent did not raise it.

Three-quarters (75 per cent) of those who raised their concerns said abusers justified their comments as “banter”. 

Man sitting on a football pitch crying
It’s not just LGBTQ+ fans who face homophobic and transphobic abuse at live sporting events. (Envato Elements)

As a result, a majority of 85 per cent of participants said sport needs to improve to be inclusive for all, with just under half of this number (44 per cent) saying sport is less progressive and accepting than society as a whole. 

International initiative calls for action on homophobia in football

Holmes told PinkNews: “We know that LGBTQ+ fans feel unwelcome and unsafe in environments where homophobic chanting is heard. 

“Sports Media LGBT+ continues to work with Pride Sports UK, which delivers the long-running Football v Homophobia campaign, to raise awareness of the damage caused by anti-LGBTQ+ abuse and we would welcome the opportunity to study the detail in this new research.” 

This year, a rise in homophobia in UK men’s football resulted in Football v Homophobia and other groups calling on the Football Association and authorities to do more to prevent anti-LGBTQ+ abuse.

The OnePoll research comes ahead of the TCS London Marathon which will kick off at 9.30am on Sunday (23 April). 

Automotive partner of the marathon, Nissan UK, has created an inclusive Cheer Zone for the queer community, offering a welcoming atmosphere for spectators at the Rainbow Row section of the course. 

Adele Roberts, one of Nissan UK’s diversity, equity and inclusion ambassadors, commented on the polls findings and said they show “why the Cheer Zone” is so important. 

“It was an honour to be a part of Rainbow Row at last year’s marathon, helping to create an inclusive safe space for the LGBTQ+ community – and our allies, family and friends – and this year I’m looking forward to running as a proud member of the community,” Roberts said, as reported in the Independent. 

Holmes commended the LGBTQ+ Rainbow Row inclusion and said he hopes the Cheer Zone inspires runners and spectators “whose allyship is much needed across sport”. 

Last year, the London Marathon added a non-binary gender marker option for its 2023 participants. The move heralded as a step forward for LGBTQ+ inclusivity in sports, and saw trans charity Mermaids commended the decision in a tweet stating: “Gold medal for the organisers!”

But eradicating discrimination in sport – especially football – has a long way to go. 

Anyone who has witnessed or experienced a hate crime is urged to call the police on 101, Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or visit the True Vision website. In an emergency, always dial 999.

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