The decision of the Rugby Football League to join the Diversity Champions Programme run by gay equality organisation Stonewall has been hailed as a major breakthrough.

The league becomes the first national governing body of a major sport to join the scheme.

Homophobia in sport is a serious problem – there are almost no sporting role models who are gay, lesbian or bisexual.

Earlier this year the British Army became the 400th Diversity Champion.

The programme promotes best practice and gives organisations guidance and advice on how to create equality in the workplace.

The Royal Navy and Royal Air Force are already members, alongside companies such as Barclays and IBM and many public sector bodies.

The RFL is the governing body for rugby league in the United Kingdom.

It will work with Stonewall to promote good working conditions for all existing and potential employees and to ensure equal treatment for those who are lesbian, gay and bisexual.

“We’re delighted at the vision being shown by the RFL,” said Ben Summerskill, chief executive of Stonewall.

“Homophobia still deters far too many gay people from being both fans and participants in sport.

“We hope that we’ll soon see a British Ian Roberts, an iconic Rugby League player able both to come out as gay and play world class rugby at the same time.”

RFL’s Equality and Diversity Manger, Sarah Williams said she is proud to be a part of an organisation that has a genuine commitment to equality and diversity.

“I am confident that the RFL as an organisation and the wider Rugby League family will rise to the challenge and look forward working with Stonewall to make a real difference,” she said.

Stonewall will be sending posters stating ‘Some people are gay. Get over it!’ to all RFL clubs when the new season begins in March.

This will also be provided as a visual for match programmes, local advertising and community engagement.

The RFL will be holding an event at the beginning of the new season to officially launch their partnership with Stonewall.

There are currently no openly gay Rugby League players.

Nigel Owens was the first openly gay referee to officiate in a World Cup last year. He was awarded Stonewall’s Sportsperson of the Year award in 2007.