ARU to fight homophobia

2013-08-28 07:45
David Pocock (Getty)
Sydney - Sydney account manager Jason Fowler didn't know how to tell his team-mates at Macquarie University Rugby Club he was gay.

According to the website, so he joined a rival team - Australia's first gay rugby club - and let his football do the talking, helping the Sydney Convicts to a 14-10 win over his old side and coming out to them in the process.

''When I rocked up and they saw me they were a bit surprised that I was playing for the Convicts,'' Fowler said.

''I played with them for three years and I'm still good mates with a couple of them. In hindsight, it wouldn't have been that big of a deal had I told them while I was there but I felt like I couldn't express myself fully.''

The Australian Rugby Union on Tuesday took the first formal step towards making sure the Jason Fowlers of the future don't need to leave their teams to feel comfortable in rugby.

The ARU will become the first Australian football code to specifically address homophobia in a new policy designed to stamp out discrimination against the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex (GLBTI) community.

The aim is to have a robust and possibly enforceable policy up and running in time for the Bingham Cup, also known as the gay rugby world cup, which kicks off in Sydney this time next year.

Wallabies breakaway David Pocock, who has joined as a Bingham Cup ambassador with team-mate Adam Ashley-Cooper, said he was pleased the ARU was ''finally stepping up''.

''It's something I think is very important, that we are making our sport more inclusive,'' Pocock said.

''It's sad to hear stories of young players not feeling safe enough to let their teammates know their sexuality and, in some cases, being voted off teams because the team isn't happy playing with someone who's gay.''

Hockey Australia has a similar inclusion policy addressing homophobia. Bingham Cup president Andrew Purchas congratulated the ARU for firming its position.

''Unfortunately homophobic attitudes and discrimination are the reason many people from GLBTI community drop out of sport from such a young age,'' Mr Purchas said.

Fowler, the Convicts' starting halfback, said the ARU's move was validation of the club's efforts over the years, and felt almost as good as getting a win over his old team.

''I'd made the switch and I wanted to give them the impression that I'd traded up and improved myself as a player,'' he said.

''Most of them thought it was quite funny and surprising. We had a laugh about it after the game and had a couple of beers. It was a really positive experience.''

Read more on:    rugby

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