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Australian sport has quite a way to go before homophobia becomes a thing of the past.

A landmark study into discrimination being faced by lesbian, gay and bisexual athletes has found a staggering 85 per cent have experienced or witnessed homophobic abuse.

Just days after Ian Thorpe revealed his sexuality, results from the study 'Out on the Fields' shows players at all levels, including some of our biggest professional sporting stars in the NRL, AFL, ARU and Australian cricket, have been exposed to homophobia while playing or in the stands as a spectator.

More concerning, of the 2500 people taking part in the survey, 13 per cent say they have been the victim of physical assaults.

One of Australia's only openly gay professional athletes, Alex Blackwell, who is the vice-captain of the national female cricket team the CBA Southern Stars, says homophobia is something almost everyone has experienced at some point.

The results of this study show that we still have a fair bit of work to do around changing sporting culture in Australia and making it a safe place for people to be open about their sexuality.

As Australia prepares to play host to the Bingham Cup, affectionately known as the gay rugby World Cup, the survey results from the 'Out on the Fields' study also come as no surprise to players from the country's first gay rugby union club, the Sydney Convicts.

Bingham Cup Sydney 2014 - Official Video
by Bingham Cup Sydney 2014 via YouTube

Andrew Purchase, second rower at the Convicts, says Australia is on a journey and is confident the issue will improve.

The progress in Australian sport in the past 12 months gives me some hope that things will change.  There needs to be some understanding that this is an issue and once people realise how significant it is, it will improve.
Sydney Convicts players on the steps of the Sydney Opera House
Source: supplied  

Melbourne Chargers player Ryan Naylor says much like the slur by a Seven Network commentator during pre-game AFL coverage last week, people all too frequently laugh and accept the use of homophobic language as simply having a joke.

The problem with this issue is that people see weakness and homosexuality or weakness and femininity as the same things in Australia.  This creates a really toxic environment in sporting clubs.  People say the word gay doesn't mean homosexual anymore, it means stupid or weak.

The eight day festival of the Bingham Cup gets underway in Sydney on August 24 with over 20 events, with teams from over 15 countries taking part.


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