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Sport England in No 10 to back anti-homophobia plan

Sport England in No 10 to back anti-homophobia plan

Leading gay, lesbian and trans gender sports stars as well as national governing bodies of sport met the Prime Minister, David Cameron in No 10 yesterday to celebrate an initiative to rid sport of homophobia and transphobia.

Sport England attended the event which included stars like rugby player Gareth Thomas and multiple Wimbledon champion Billie Jean King.

Mr Cameron spoke of the pride he feels in what the last government and this government has done/is doing in the field of LGBT rights, and at the UK being recently voted most gay friendly country in Europe.

He celebrated the governing bodies signing up to a charter for action and urged them to continue to make their sports safe and welcoming for participants.

Among the sports to sign up are the Football Association, English Cricket Board, Rugby Football Union, Rugby Football League, Lawn Tennis Association, England Volleyball and England Hockey.

Governing bodies have agreed to work individually and collectively to make sport a "welcome place for everyone", to ensure the LGBT community had a voice in sport and to "challenge unacceptable behaviour".

Home Secretary Theresa May said Wednesday's event sent a "very clear signal" that the government and national sporting associations took the issue seriously and "wanted to make a difference".

Billie Jean King, who shares the record for the most Wimbledon titles won, said athletes should be given the space to talk openly about their sexuality when they felt ready and not feel pressurised into doing so.

While homophobia was still a real issue in sport, she said there had been progress in the 30 years since she was outed.

"I lost all my endorsements in 24 hours, I lost a lot of money. Today that would not happen. When Amelie Mauresmo came out she did not lose any endorsements - in fact she got extra ones."

While attitudes were changing, she said homophobia was still "very much a problem" in sport.

"Just look at how few sports people have come out," she said.

Sport England is working with the Government Equalities Office to promote the initiative and is due to sign the charter officially shortly.