New Zealand national sporting bodies should work towards adopting a policy of zero tolerance for homophobia and other discriminatory behaviour, a new report by a University of Otago researcher recommends.

The report, “Anti-homophobia and inclusion policies in New Zealand Sport Organisations”, was prepared by sport management researcher Dr Sally Shaw of Otago’s School of Physical Education, Sport and Exercise Sciences. It reviewed how six national sporting bodies are addressing change policies in these areas.

The organisations are NZ Rugby, Netball New Zealand, Hockey New Zealand, New Zealand Rugby League, New Zealand Football, and New Zealand Cricket.

The report, which was based on workshops and interviews, found that homophobia was identified as an issue by most of the participating bodies and a number of them are starting to develop policies in this area.

It recommends that organisations adopt clear anti-discrimination and inclusion policies and education programmes, and that homophobia zero tolerance policies should cover players, coaches, administrators and fans.

In developing and implementing the policies the bodies should seek support from organisations such as Rainbow Tick and draw on work done by sport organisations in other countries, the report says.

It also urges organisations to reach out to lesbian, gay and bisexual and other marginalised groups within their sports, especially within youth sport.

Dr Shaw says it is vital to start early with education at schools, clubs, and youth sport.

“Young lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) athletes are far more likely to stay in the closet because of fear of bullying and discrimination than older athletes.” Her report cites 2015 research showing that 81 per cent of New Zealand’s gay sportsmen and 74 per cent of lesbian sportswomen under the age of 22 reported being either partially or totally in the closet with their team-mates.

Dr Shaw says it came through strongly that the study participants showed genuine commitment and goodwill towards bringing about change around homophobia and inclusion within their organisations.

“This was a welcome finding and one which bodes well for their challenging missions of creating sport cultures that do not tolerate homophobia and in which LGB and other minority athletes, coaches, administrators and spectators feel welcome and included.”