by Catriona McAllister, CEO, Jersey Sport
Historically, sport has always been a traditionally male-dominated arena, and while the Summer Olympic Games in Paris first hosted women’s events in golf, tennis and croquet in 1900, women’s boxing wasn’t legalised in Queensland, Australia until a hundred years later in 2000! TV sports presenters and commentators were mostly male until the 1970s, and even then, female sportscasters were rare and gay female presenters were invisible. While we’ve begun to see greater diversity across gender, sexuality, ethnicity and disability in all areas of sport, male sports still dominate in terms of screen time and promotion, which leads to large differences in pay between male and female professional athletes.
It wasn’t that long ago that sports players and athletes were forced to hide their sexuality because ‘coming out’ would tarnish their reputation and halt their progress into major leagues and tournaments. Fast forward 20 years and young gay athletes are now recognised for their talents instead of being penalised for the people they choose to love.
When I was a young sports player in my native Scotland, the locker room ‘banter’ made it impossible to show everyone exactly who I really was. And I wasn’t alone. High profile athletes like Martina Navratilova bravely rebelled against the system, enduring heartbreak and disappointment to act as trailblazers for future generations of athletes. We owe a huge debt of gratitude to the athletes in our history books who were willing to stand up for their beliefs, no matter what the outcome.
I am so happy that we now celebrate all athletes for their sporting skills regardless of their sexuality. Dame Kelly Holmes, Tom Daly and countless others who have endured their own personal challenges can now shine bright in their sport, acting as inspiring role models for men and women all around the world. Their sexuality is irrelevant in our sporting culture in 2022, but we must not forget the challenges and suffering that they or their sporting predecessors faced, or that many athletes still face in other countries around the world. That’s why we celebrate diversity, equality and inclusion with PRIDE festivals each year.
Sponsored by EY, Jersey Pride in Sport aims to raise awareness and tackle issues of racism, homophobia and sexism in sport. In collaboration with EY and Liberate, we at Jersey Sport are committed to creating an environment where everyone feels like they belong. It’s only when people can truly feel accepted that they can perform at their best and reach their potential.
It’s vitally important that we, as an island, continue to build on the diversity, equality and inclusion foundations that have been laid over recent years. Young people across all sports should feel welcomed and accepted, regardless of their sexuality. We want sports pitches, swimming pools and changing rooms to feel like a safe, inclusive environment for everyone.
In an effort to unite people and promote fairness and respect, Jersey Sport are offering an Equality, Diversity and Inclusion workshop on Thursday 29 September for the sporting community. We understand that sport still has prejudice, hate and fear to overcome, but we are committed to tackling these issues and promoting positive change.
And we’d love you to get involved and support Jersey Pride this year by wearing rainbow laces, headbands or wristbands during sporting activity and sharing your photos across social media to raise awareness using #JerseyPrideInSport.
For more information about how you can GET INVOLVED in Jersey Pride in Sport, please visit: www.jerseysport.je/jersey-pride-in-sport
This article was originally published in the Jersey Evening Post on 24 September 2022.