Britain's controversial determination to maintain its commitment to foreign aid means it can do more to promote gay rights in Africa, Prime Minister David Cameron has said.
Launching a charter at Downing Street to tackle homophobia in sport, Mr Cameron said that because Britain was meeting its promises to the poorest people in the world, it gave it moral authority to talk to African leaders about the issue.
He told sports chiefs and stars that homophobia in sport, homophobic bullying in schools and appalling treatment of gay people in other parts of the world, particularly in Africa, were areas where improvement was needed. He said the Government had already taken steps to move the agenda of gay equality forward, but more needed to be done.
Mr Cameron said: "There are a huge number of sports personalities who have not felt able to come out. We should be doing far more to make them comfortable to do that."
The issue of homophobic bullying in schools was linked to homophobia in sport, he said. "Young people look to role models, and until we have enough positive role models, it won't change."
Those present included tennis veteran Billie Jean King, who said: "I think until you talk about something, it's underground. It's much better to get things on to the table and talk about them.
"I'm really indebted to Prime Minister Cameron for doing that. He's in a position of power and leadership, he has tremendous influence, everyone knows who he is. It's great that he's taken on this initiative.
"Sport will be the last bastion that will change, because it's so macho. There are a lot of sports stars that haven't come out - it is important that this should become a non-issue, that it should become mainstream."
Former Wales and British Lions rugby union captain Gareth Thomas, who revealed in December 2009 that he is gay, was also present.
He said: "I think the fact that this is happening is an achievement in itself. It would never have happened 10 years ago. There are representatives of sports governing bodies here. They want to stamp homophobia out of sport. It will reduce the problem if people feel comfortable to come out."