Australian, NSW Breakers great and Sydney Thunder captain, Alex Blackwell believes cricket in Australia can learn from and integrate the work done by the world’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex charity in sport, ‘You Can Play’.
Blackwell, an openly gay athlete, was the workshop facilitator, master of ceremonies and keynote speaker at a diversity and inclusion seminar proudly hosted by Cricket NSW at the SCG last week where the North American charity was the main facilitator.
Guests were welcomed by Cricket NSW Chief Executive Lee Germon and Blues captain Peter Nevill also spoke at the event .
‘You Can Play’ works to ensure the safety and inclusion of athletes in all sports, focusing on LGBTI athletes, coaches and fans in the United States and Canada.
The seminar focused on similar themes. It was supported by Cricket Australia, Monash University and the Canadian Government.
Blackwell, who now serves as a director on the Cricket NSW Board after retiring from the Australian team and Breakers in 2018, said one of the most significant things she took away was how much had been achieved in North America.
“With every National Hockey League team doing pride activities, and all bar one, Major League Baseball team doing the same … not necessarily because it’s the right thing to do but because it is working,” Blackwell said.
“(It is) a really great opportunity for us in terms of engaging new fans and bringing more revenue and profit into the business.”
Monash University, based in Victoria, presented research to provide a business case of the true benefits for a sport that can engage their LGBTI community.
Two case studies were used during the presentation: Proud Cricket Day held by Cricket Victoria and the National Hockey League Pride Week, both of which celebrate LGBTI inclusion.
The research found that language is still the largest barrier for LGBTI players and most people use such offensive language without realising it.
Nevill thought the research was very profound and was encouraged that attitudes were changing.
“It was very heartening to hear that now 81 per cent of people will step in if someone’s being bullied,” Nevill said.
Nevill was one of three speakers with Blackwell and gay former professional Ice Hockey player, now referee, Andrea Barone, who both spoke of their experiences as pioneers for LGBTI players, coaches and officials.
The Blues captain offered an insight into the culture that his team are building and significance he has put on creating a welcoming and safe environment for all.
‘You Can Play’ found that small strategies were the most effective in changing behaviour.
“The use of language, how to have better impact when discussing inclusion strategies in sport,” said Blackwell.
She said cricket had gained so much momentum in the last few years in terms of strategies around inclusion.
“I would say the key to our success has been our partnerships.
“We accept in cricket that we’re not the experts in this, so we partner with the right people.”