The Minister for Sport, Hugh Robertson, has spoken out on the importance of supporting athletes in coming out, and changing the sporting world in order to be more inclusive of LGBT people.
Speaking at a StandUp Foundation event organised by parliOUT, Parliament’s LGBT staff network, the Conservative minister, said that he was “slightly appalled” by the fact that so few sports people feel able to come out whilst still competing.
Mr Robertson began by saying he would be brief. He said: “The next thing I’ve got to do tonight is go and read all of the committee papers for the equal marriage bill.”
He continued: “I think it was one thing that someone said this evening which really struck a chord, a number of great things have been said tonight. It was that statistic about the Olympic Games. If you look at the number of athletes who competed and the relatively small number that were comfortable to come out and say they were gay, that tells you quite a story.
The speaker then goes on to say that he found it distressing how few athletes come out whilst actively still working professionally.
“I’m always struck, and in a sense slightly appalled by the number of people who finish their sporting careers and then come out, but don’t feel that they are confident to do so while playing sport at a very high standard.”
Mr Robertson was no doubt referring to the former Leeds United player Robbie Rogers who came out as he retired from the game earlier this month.
He went on to stress the important part role models had in ensuring gay sports people could come out.
He said: “I think that absolutely ties in with something that Ben [Cohen] has just said, that really is incumbent of all of us to make sure that sporting bodies and clubs in particular, give people the confidence and the support to come out to be who they are while they are playing sport at the very highest level, create the sort of role models that Ben is talking about.
“And that actually we all do everything we can to then condition the people that are in the crowds that are watching it so that people don’t feel they are going to be on the receiving end of vile homophobic, or other abuse, if they take that extraordinary and courageous [step].
He concluded: “I agree with you entirely that we are on a journey, much progress has been made, but there is an awful lot more that remains to be done, and we will absolutely do everything we can to make sure it happens.”
Rugby Star Ben Cohen’s StandUp Foundation aims to eliminate homophobia and transphobia in sport. Last year the Former England rugby player stripped off for for the charity, in a ‘making of’ video for his calendar.