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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, March 11, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 10
British Rugby League club set to make LGBT history
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British Rugby League club set to make LGBT history

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor

The Sheffield Eagles Rugby League club will make history this Sunday by becoming the first sports team in U.K. history to wear a kit (uniform) openly displaying an anti-homophobia message.

The Sheffield Eagles have joined forces with the Rugby Football League to show their support for the fight against homophobia. The Eagles are dedicating their home game against Widnes Vikings at Bramall Lane, Sheffield on March 13 to the RFL's 'Homophobia: Tackle It!' campaign.

The Eagles will show their support by wearing a specially commissioned one-off playing shirt, which will be sponsored by LGBT History Month and Pride Sports, and will come emblazoned with the 'Homophobia: Tackle It!' slogan.

The Sheffield Eagles are the first professional club in mainstream U.K. sport to display such a high level of support for the anti-homophobia campaign.

England cricketer Steven Davies, who recently announced his homosexuality to the world, was among the first to show his support for the event. 'Gareth Thomas was a real inspiration and made me believe it would be possible for me to do the same,' said Davies, 'so anything that helps even one person should be applauded. There may be added pressures in sports as the number of people that have come out is so small, so it's great that Rugby League is taking this step.'

One of the nation's favorite broadcasters, Clare Balding, was also quick to show her support for the event. 'I am delighted that Rugby League has taken the positive, progressive step of publicly embracing diversity and condemning prejudice,' said Balding. 'Rugby League has always been a sport that seeks to involve rather than exclude, and I applaud its stance against homophobia. I hope other sports will follow the outstanding example set by The RFL. Congratulations and, on a personal note, thank you.'

Lib Dem politician and Junior Home Office Minister Lynne Featherstone has also pledged her support to the event. 'Homophobia and Transphobia have caused too much harm and ruined too many lives,' said Featherstone. 'That is why we all need to join together to tackle this problem. I am delighted to support this fantastic occasion with the RFL and Sheffield Eagles, who are sending an amazing message not only to sports fans but also to children, and society in general, that there is no room for homophobia or Transphobia in this country. By highlighting LGBT History Month and the work of Pride Sports, you are all making a powerful statement that society is changing and together we can make a difference.'

The Sheffield Eagles' decision to back LGBT History Month and Pride Sports' anti-homophobia campaign follows a number of groundbreaking achievements by the sport of Rugby League.

The RFL was recently included in the Stonewall Top 100 Workplace Index, becoming the first sports organization ever to be named as a leading LGBT-friendly employer, an accolade that followed Super League player Gareth Thomas' recognition as the 2010 Stonewall LGBT Hero of The Year.

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