Sport and the LGBT+ community

It’s Pride Day today so I thought I’d take a look at how the LGBT+ community in the UK engages with sport – from both a fan and participant perspective.

It’s fair to say that many sports are still failing to successfully engage LGBT+ people, but there is quite a marked difference between men and women.

Far fewer LGBT+ men have an interest in watching sport than UK men as a whole (28% vs 53%), with another sizeable gap when it comes to playing (23% vs 38%). 

For LGBT+ women, it’s a much more positive picture, over-indexing for a general interest in playing sport, and for following many individual sports.

LGBT+ women also over-index for participation in almost every individual sport, with rugby, martial arts, basketball and football doing especially well.

Attendance in person is perhaps the greatest test of whether a sport has created an inclusive and welcoming environment, and again we see a divide between men and women. LGBT+ women over-index for attendance at 13 of 29 sports, whereas for men that is the case for only four.

What is driving this difference?

It could be a general perception (or a reality?) that some sports are more acceptable and welcoming for LGBT+ women than they are for men, along with a major difference in the presence of role models at the elite levels. 

There is still no openly gay man playing professional football in the UK, and precious few in rugby, cricket or golf. Perhaps the recent coming out of Carl Nassib in the NFL will help to encourage others to take that step.


There is no general reluctance from LGBT+ men to take part in physical activity: gym and exercise frequency matches the UK average almost exactly, and exercise classes are the one area where men do over-index (by 47%). LGBT+ men are also more likely to have a general interest in personal healthcare. There has to be an opportunity for more sports to convert more of this interest in health and physical fitness into involvement in sport.

Please download the full report if you’d like to see the details.

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