Spotlight Project - Sporting LEAPs for LGBT people in Scotland

LEAP Sports logo

LEAP Sports Scotland is a newly established national organisation committed to breaking down the social and personal barriers that discourage LGBT people across the country from participating in Scottish sports and physical activity. The project successfully secured funding from the Equalities Fund to work with national and local organisations to tackle discrimination, challenge homophobic attitudes and perceptions, and break down barriers that prevent LGBT people from getting involved in sports and physical activity. One of their key objectives is to use the legacy from the Commonwealth Games 2014 to further LGBT sports development and growth, and as a means of increasing participation in sports by LGBT people so that they can experience the positive health and social benefits this brings.

Through the Commonwealth Games Legacy for Communities Programme, LEAP Sports has been engaging with national LGBT/sports agencies and local LGBT sports clubs to take their work forward and to challenge the negative attitudes that exist within mainstream sports and sporting competitions that perpetuate negative stereotypes of LGBT people.


How are they doing it?

Out for Sport coverIn late June 2012, LEAP Sports jointly organised a national conference with the Equalities Network, entitled ‘Out For Sports - Tackling Homophobia and Transphobia in Sport'. The main purpose of the conference was to highlight the findings from a recent research project, Out for Sport: tackling homophobia and transphobia in sport. One of the key attitudinal findings from the research was that ‘LGBT people continue to face homophobia, biphobia, transphobia and other barriers to participating in sport, and to a lesser extent in other physical activity. This has a negative impact on the numbers of LGBT people taking part in sport.' 

The research reinforced findings from an earlier survey undertaken by LEAP Sports with a number of local LGBT/non-LGBT sports clubs and organisations. 164 people responded to the survey which indicated that some LGBT people's non-participation in sports and physical activity relates to negative experiences from their school years. However, as with the national research, the survey also highlighted that hundreds of LGBT people are already experiencing positive health and social outcomes by participating in sports and physical activity and that the range of opportunities available should be highlighted and developed ‘I strongly feel that mainstream sports groups which openly welcome LGBT members should be encouraged to get involved, not just LGBT targeted groups' (LEAP Sports survey respondent)

Both the survey and the national research provided a basis for a discussion with conference delegates about how the CWGs could be used as a catalyst for challenging negative attitudes and increasing participation in sport among LGBT people. With support from the Scottish Community Development Centre, two workshops were undertaken to discuss how to tackle existing barriers and what a CWG legacy for LGBT people would look like. The workshops comprised 30 delegates from local and national LBGT and non-LGBT organisations, and feedback cards were collected from those who did not attend the workshops but who wanted to give their views. The information and suggestions generated will be used by LEAP Sports Scotland to create a legacy plan that will help achieve their key objective - to use the Games as a way of increasing participation and promoting LGBT sports development.


Some key findings from the engagement:

Sports Scotland CEO Stewart Harris addresses LEAP Sport event

  • Whilst the biggest barrier to participation in activities was cost and time, there are many LGBT people who would take up sports or physical activity if they knew what opportunities exist, within both local LGBT and non-LGBT clubs (LEAP Sports survey)
  • LGBT people are discouraged from participating in sports and physical activity due to previous negative experiences, particularly in school environments.
  • There is a lack of openly out LGBT people in professional sports and this perpetuates negative stereotypes and homophobia in sports at all levels
  • LGBT people who do participate in sports and physical activity experience a range of health and social benefits - "The group is fantastic - met my partner and many friends there. It includes folks from all walks of life - different ages, backgrounds and a great place for LGBT women and men to meet and have fun. It has been a real lifeline for many of us and is a real gem of a club - especially for those who have experienced homophobia in other settings" (LEAP Sports survey respondent).


Recommendations from the event:

  1. Raising the profile of LGBT sports groups and clubs - there are at least 32 local LGBT specific or LGBT ‘friendly' sports clubs/groups that cover football, badminton running, tennis and others. These opportunities should be highlighted and expanded.
  2. Increasing participation of LGBT in sports and physical activity - LEAP Sports Scotland should support an infrastructure that helps local sports clubs and organisations increase levels of involvement in their activities via promotion, support and best practice.
  3. Challenging negative attitudes and perceptions - at all levels, negative attitudes and perceptions directly prevent LGBT people from participating by perpetuating stereotypes that suggest LGBT people are not capable of competing or are ‘no good at sports'. LEAP Sports should work with national sports agencies and others to create strategies and opportunities to challenge negative perceptions and make more sports accessible to LGBT people.
  4. Use the Games 2014 to educate and inform - the Games provide real opportunities to break down barriers and challenge homophobia in sport by highlighting positive role models and champions. Scotland could lead by example in showing other commonwealth countries that LGBT people do and can participate in competitive sports and that there is no room for homophobia in sports at any level - "Scotland wide campaign linked to the Games with t-shirts/posters, and avoiding any stereotypical parade" (Conference workshop delegate).

What next?

LEAP Sport engagement event

LEAPsports Scotland intends to use the findings from the national research, their own survey and feedback from the national conference to create a Commonwealth Games legacy plan that will focus on their key objectives. They have collated and collected valuable evidence from LGBT people using the VOiCE community engagement planning and evaluation tool. From the evidence gathered it is likely that LEAP Sports Scotland will engage with a range of national and local organisations to raise these issues for LGBT people and will be pivotal in advancing LGBT sports development and LGBT involvement in the CWG 2014.

You can read more about LEAPsports Scotland and their current activities by visiting their website at


Click here for a list of previous Spotlight Project stories from the Commonwealth Games Legacy for Communities Programme