Harlequins study finds homophobic language still rife in English rugby

Harlequins
The Stoop will host the first LGBTQ+ rugby union fixture later this season. Credit Harlequins rugby.

A recent study, ignited by Harlequins and Australia’s Monash University, looking at the reasoning behind homophobic language has been examined in what is believed to be a first of its kind in the UK. 

The findings will be used to develop effective, evidence-based programmes to stop the use of slurs and derogatory jokes about gay and bisexual people in all sports.

It comes in good timing as Harlequins prepare to hold the world’s first ever rugby union LGBTQ+ Pride themed fixture on Saturday 15 February 2020, hosting London Irish at the Twickenham Stoop.

Key findings

• 69% of male rugby players heard their teammates using slurs such as fag or dyke in ‘the last two weeks’

• 42% of these players admitted to using this language themselves in the same time period

• 67% have at least ‘one’ close gay friend and 69% want the language to stop

• Player reported language is motivated by peer pressure, and typically used to get a laugh out of others, or ‘fit in’ on their team

The study analysed data collected from randomly selected rugby clubs in the South of England in January and February of 2020.

The study also found this language does not appear to be motivated by ‘homophobia’ or any malice or prejudice toward gay people, with many of the rugby players who used the ‘slurs’ also expressing positive attitudes toward gay people, and most (67%) male rugby players reported they have ‘close’ gay friends.

“It is surprising to see a near total disconnect between the homophobic language being used by rugby players, and their attitudes to gay people,” said Erik Denison, one of the researchers leading international studies on this issue. He is with the Faculty of Education at Australia’s Monash University

About the study

275 male and female rugby players, ages 16 – 42, from eight randomly selected rugby clubs in the South of England completed surveys prior to normal training in January and February. Random selection, and participation by all rugby players at training at the time of the survey, means the results are a good representation of rugby culture in the South of England, a relatively progressive area of the country. Focus groups will also be held next month.

 

“Main photo credit”

Harlequins
The Stoop will host the first LGBTQ+ rugby union fixture later this season. Credit Harlequins rugby.

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