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December 6, 2012

IconSports Wales and Stonewall Cymru tackles homophobia in Welsh Sports

Today, Sports Wales and Stonewall Cymru have teamed up to combat homophobia in sports.  After the Olympics and the government stressing the importance of the Games Legacy, it’s never been a more exciting time for sports in the UK.  Sports Wales and Stonewall Cymru have revealed the details of their #sportyandgay campaign, to outline the importance of eradicating homophobia from on and off the field. And quite rightly so.

However, what niggles me is that over the 10 years I’ve been playing hockey, not once have I ever come across homophobia, whether it was at my local hockey club or at university.  I found being part of a club has evolved to become a second family, a close knit group who not only works together on the astro, but also looks out for and cares for each other.  It saddens me to think that other people haven’t been so lucky when coming to sport.

According to the report published on the Sport Wales website here, gay men generally have felt more excluded than gay women/lesbians.  However, with massive sporting stars such as Gareth Thomas and Nigel Owens from rugby, who are openly gay, have become beacons of hope for aspiring gay rugby players.  Football, on the other hand, is struggling with having gay representatives, and appears to be a completely heterosexual sphere, with no place for gay men.  A gay male that was surveyed stated:

“Make it clear that sport isn’t a preserve for straight men. More openly gay premiership football players would turn a corner” – gay male, survey

This is clearly an attitude Sports Wales and Stonewall are hitting hard, with a ‘No Tolerance’ policy coursing through the campaign.

Another message that was clearly outlined in the report was that sports club should be more responsible for showcasing that they are ‘gay friendly’.  Personally, why does a club need to state this? Surely, being friendly full stop is important, not zoning in on one group?  As part of our club, we’re hugely proud of being one of the friendliest hockey clubs in North Wales.  We’re welcoming, happy, have great attitudes on and off the pitch and care a great deal about each other and any new members who would like to join!  But if clubs were specifically advertising that they were ‘LGBT friendly’, my first thought would be “well, why wouldn’t you be anyway?”, and if I ever joined a team that wasn’t, I wouldn’t stick around.

Many of my gay friends who live in Wales and beyond play sports, whether it’s rugby, football, hockey, darts, pool, or even water polo, and the sporting world has always been a safe haven for us to be who we are.  A segment of the report focuses on gay ‘banter’, and how 75% of LGBT respondents have experienced this either whilst playing or watching.  Sometimes banter can be vicious and cruel, and there’s never any room for such vulgar comments, no matter what the situation, but I’ve had quite a bit of ‘gay banter’, but we all took the mickey out of each other for different things.  At university we had quite a few members of the club who were LGBT, so drinking fines were split to “gays drink” and “straights drink” – equality! Being gay was just a sub group of the big family that we had, and the straights had just as much banter as the gays.

Once again, maybe I was lucky to be a part of such a magnificent hockey club at university, and my local hockey club in North Wales.  It saddens me to even think about other members of the LGBT society not being accepted and appreciated as I have been, but I’m extremely impressed and excited about the Stonewall Cymru and Sport Wales movement to not only raise awareness about homophobia in sports, but one day eliminating it forever.

Hockey tour top – love it, thought it was hilarious, not offensive! The theme was music, and this is the Katy Perry song

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Ffion Davies

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