Improving LGBT experience of sport

With LGBT sport and physical activity in the spotlight, we take a look at our work in the sector

23 November 2018 News Active Nation

With Stonewall’s Rainbow Laces campaign now a week in and the nation’s best rugby union players and teams in the Football League set to lace up in technicolour this weekend, we thought we’d give you an update on our work with the LGBT sport and physical activity sector.

Rainbow Laces was set up by Stonewall in 2013, with laces being sent to all Premier and Football League clubs and players being encouraged to lace up and show their support for the anti-homophobia campaign.

Since then it has grown, encompassed more professional sports and, last year, saw 75,313 pairs of laces being distributed in all areas of sport – to fans, players and officials.

This year, the campaign spans three weeks, but will be focused around a national lace-up day on Wednesday, 28 November, as Stonewall aims to top the 12 million adults that saw the campaign in 2017.

As Rainbow Laces has grown, its scope has gone from homophobia to encompass biphobia and transphobia, just as our work at Sport England in the LGBT community has grown.

Below is a summary of our current knowledge, what we as an organisation have done so far, and what we're planning to do next – with much of our current insight coming from the Sport, Physical Activity and LGBT report we commissioned from Pride Sports, which can be downloaded here.

What do we already know?

We commissioned Pride Sports to undertake a 10-week study examining the levels of participation of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in sport.

The report looks into the existing research into issues affecting take-up and the impact of projects currently out there that are successfully delivering more opportunities for LGBT people.

The study focused on:

  • Initiatives aimed at improving participation
  • Volunteering
  • Spectating

Later this month, during the Rainbow Laces campaign, we will be releasing new insight around LGBT sport infrastructure and a deeper dive into LGBT participation in sport and physical activity.

What have we done so far?

As well as commissioning Pride Sports for their research and advice, we provided Birmingham LGBT with a grant to be able to deliver the Activate project.

Originally funded for three years in 2014, the project was extended for a further year because of its success – connecting with more than 2,635 regular participants. We also helped to fund the development of a gym at the LGBT main office and this safe space has been an important part of the offer. The project supported a number of organisations to establish themselves,  including Birmingham Swifts running group, and led to some fantastic innovation.

We are also currently funding TAGS, that delivers trans and gender non-conforming swimming opportunities which continues to grow and to push boundaries every single day. The project now has sessions running in three London boroughs, and one in Birmingham, and has seen further support invested in the initiative from leisure providers, borough councils, and housing associations. TAGS has also developed trans awareness training that it has used in this project and we are looking to provide further support to the industry on this.

More recently we announced that we will be funding The Proud Trust to deliver a project that will engage LGBT young people in Manchester who have been put off from participating in sport because of LGBT-phobia in sport settings.

What are we planning to do next?

We have appointed a new senior equality and diversity manager, who is leading on our LGBT inclusion work as well as BAME inclusion and the equality standards for sport.

We now have a dedicated LGBT budget and will shortly be releasing an investment portfolio to the sector, to drive our work forwards in this area.

We are also working with a range of partners to produce a trans-inclusive facility guidance document which will be releasing in 2019. We hope this document help to support the sport and leisure sector to be more inclusive of trans people and better advance trans people’s experiences of sport and physical activity.

We work closely with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, supporting them on the LGBT specific outcomes of the cross-government Sporting Future strategy and we are also working with the Government Equalities Office to support them to achieve their ambitions in the LGBT Action Plan.

And we, along with the Sport and Recreation Alliance, recently submitted a sector-wide response to the Government Equalities Office's (GEO) consultation on the Gender Recognition Act and will be working closely with the GEO on the outcomes of the consultation and its implications for sport.

Results from our Active Lives Adult Survey show that activity in the LGB community is higher, while inactivity is lower than heterosexual counterparts.

It remains a challenge to ascertain statistics on transgender sport and physical activity participation levels due to relative numbers, however, our insights show there is a definite need to encourage transgender people to be more physically active.

Phil Smith, our executive director for sport, is the LGBT champion in our executive team and a proud ally to the LGBT community.

“Tackling inequality is at the heart of our Towards an Active Nation strategy,” he said.

“Although there’s no specific reference to LGBT in the strategy, that shouldn’t be misinterpreted as a lack of interest.

“Making sport and physical activity more accessible to people from under-represented groups runs right through the strategy and where this is affected by sexual orientation or gender identity, we are interested.”