London - Australia's 1999 Rugby World Cup-winning captain John Eales was among a
group of prominent rugby figures who on Friday called for an end to homophobia
The recently published "Out on the Fields" study, which saw nearly
9 500 people surveyed mostly from Australia, Britain, Canada, Ireland, New
Zealand and the United States, indicated homophobia remained a problem across a
range of sports.
Around 78 percent of all international respondents said they believed
lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) people would not be "very safe" if
they visibly displayed their sexuality in front of fellow spectators at sports
events while 77 percent of UK participants in the study had "witnessed or
experienced homophobia" around sport.
Verbal slurs such as 'faggot or 'dyke' as well as jokes about gay people
were the most common forms of homophobia reported.
But Eales, whose sport has seen the likes of former Wales captain Gareth
Thomas and leading referee Nigel Owens openly declare themselves to be gay,
said he was proud of the stance being taken by World Rugby, the game's global
"I think we were all surprised by the extent of homophobia that was
found by the study, but I am glad rugby is leading internationally on this
issue," Eales said in a statement published Friday.
"I think World Rugby's commitment to eliminate homophobia from the game
is very powerful.
"It will help end the problem because it sends a strong message to
everyone involved in sport that homophobic language or any behaviour that makes
people feel unwelcome is no longer acceptable."
Eales was joined in his bid to end discrimination on Friday by England's
James Haskell, the captain of Premiership club Wasps.
"I think homophobic language is still too common in sport," said
"Even if the jokes and banter you sometimes hear are not meant to be
harmful, I think it creates an environment where gay people don't feel very