Owens Marks Sporting Equality Event
International referee Nigel Owens hailed the work in Wales to make sport equal as the Webb Ellis Cup visited Sport Wales for a special tournament.
Owens was on hand to officiate as six teams, including the first two gay and inclusive rugby clubs in Wales, took part in a tag rugby tournament to highlight the work to get more people playing.
Wales is the first nation in the UK to develop a Government endorsed charter to encourage more lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people to play sport.
An LGBT Sport Network, developed with Stonewall Cymru, has also been established to look at how sport in Wales can continue to make itself inclusive to all sections of society.
Speaking to players before the start of the tournament, Nigel Owens, WRU referee, said:
“You cannot underestimate the importance and influence of sport but accessibility still remains an issue for many people. Sport should be for all, regardless of who you are or your background. Whatever you choose to play, you should feel safe and supported.
We’ve worked hard with the help of the WRU, Sport Wales and Stonewall to make rugby a welcoming sport and I’m really pleased to be here today to recognise the strides we’ve made both at home and internationally in making this wonderful game more accessible to those who love it and want to play it.”
Michelle Daltry, Chair of the LGBT Sport Network Cymru, said:
“Sport has been a big part of my life and my career. However, it hasn’t been easy to be a gay woman in sport. Events like this help to change the landscape and make sport more accessible. Thank you to all the teams here today for helping us to show that rugby and sport as a whole can be inclusive, accepting and accessible for all, no matter your background.”
Sarah Powell, Sport Wales Chief Executive, said:
“When we conducted our own ground-breaking research with Stonewall Cymru back in 2012 we found that 80% of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) commnunity thought it was important to take part in sport regularly, but 72% said they would be more likely to participate in sport at a club that was marketed as ‘LGBT-friendly’.
“With the work we are doing in Wales this really is the start of something special.
We’ve received really positive support for this event and it’s great to see so many teams here showing us just how welcoming the game of rugby has become for LGBT players.
Our job at Sport Wales is about growing the pool of talented sportsmen and women and our challenge to take forward is to break down barriers and prejudices to make all sport accessible. We look forward to working with Stonewall and other bodies to ensure this becomes a reality sooner rather than later.”
Follow the LGBT sport network on Twitter @LGBTsportcymru.