- 16 inclusive rugby clubs in England
- Feature taken from Saturday's matchday programme
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Stonewall’s Rainbow Laces campaign allows everyone involved in sport to show their support for LGBT equality and inclusivity and this weekend England Rugby is helping to raise awareness of the campaign.
This is the second year the RFU has worked with Stonewall, in a partnership made possible by Try for Change, an England Rugby programme raising money to use the power of rugby union and the sport’s values to improve the lives of marginalised and disadvantaged people in England and across the world.
At the grassroots of the game in England are 16 inclusive rugby clubs, one of the first was Manchester Village Spartans who over two decades have helped the game flourish in the LGBT community.
The Spartans have grown from one men’s side to three, and created a mixed gender touch rugby team. They have been breaking down barriers and using rugby to bring people together, using the Manchester Pride parade to promote the clubs and the way they use the sport to help players gain fitness, confidence and a network of friends.
In the past year, they have received their RFU accreditation and become one of 11 nationwide projects awarded a Try for Change grant for a project that has seen them working with young people aged 18-25, using rugby to promote social integration.
One man who loves playing at Spartans is 23-years old and straight. Maybe he doesn’t fit the imagined profile but, says Danny Raine, having been taken along to training by a housemate, he is one of many straight players and the club has improved his life.
Danny, who is studying medicine at Manchester University, adds: “I was a complete beginner so I wanted to play with people who were at a similar level to me. Everything about the club is geared towards welcoming new people and that meant a lot. It felt like a community, like something I hadn’t experienced in other sports. Rugby has given me something to work on, to get better at, even when things in life, or at work, aren’t going well.”
“Spartans are an inclusive club but what I’ve found since joining them is that rugby in itself is inclusive. When you join a rugby club you aren’t judged on your background, your skill level, whether you are gay or straight and it is the same with Spartans. We are all there because we love the sport.”
Good rugby players. Good partiers. Good sports. Good men
And that doesn’t mean the RFU’s inclusive clubs aren’t fiercely competitive. Birmingham Bulls took home the silverware from the Bingham Cup in Amsterdam, with both their A and B teams victorious as 72 teams from 16 countries competed.
Named after 9/11 hero and rugby player Mark Bingham, who founded two of the world’s first inclusive rugby clubs, the event takes place every two years.
“We have the chance to be role models for other gay folks who wanted to play sports, but never felt good enough or strong enough," said Bingham. "More importantly, we have the chance to show the other teams in the league that we are as good as they are. Good rugby players. Good partiers. Good sports. Good men.”
Birmingham Bulls wanted to make a statement and show the world how great they are in ability and teamwork. And make a statement they did, their As winning the Bingham Vase – the only UK team to win a trophy from Tier 1, and their B team the overall winners of the Challenger Plate.
And Bulls Chairman David Cumpston added: “The success we’ve had at this year’s Bingham Cup is not only a massive achievement for the club, but also a massive step forward in accepting people from the LGBT community in sport. I am proud of Birmingham Bulls and our contribution towards this movement.”