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London LGBTQ+ Sports Clubs Continue to Boost Diversity and Inclusion in the UK

London sport clubs devoted to diversity and inclusion are continuing their journey in growing a safe space for those within the LGBTQ+ community.

Although there is a developing awareness of the issues faced around homophobia in sports with various campaigns to end discrimination, there are still some concerns.

Recently, the UK’s Foreign Secretary James Cleverly addressed the LGBTQ+ rights in Qatar, sparking outrage among the British public ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

He said: “I think it’s important, when you’re a visitor to a country, that you respect the culture of your host nation.”

Homosexuality is illegal in Qatar and although the nation has assured no travelling fans will face any sanctions currently imposed on their own inhabitants, it begs the question of why the tournament was brought to this nation in the first instance.

Luckily the UK, and London in particular, has an array of sports clubs that welcome members of the LGBTQ+ community exclusively, in a friendly and safe environment.

One such club is the London Royals, a hockey team based in Wapping, who are at the forefront in strengthening inclusion across the capital and beyond.

Club President, Andy Elton, spoke about the history and rise of LGBTQ+ sport in the UK.

He said: “We are the largest LGBTQ+ hockey club in the UK and the second largest in the world, celebrating our 16th birthday next year.”

Promotion of LGBTQ+ clubs, however, can be problematic, especially when homophobia can creep in and inflict a threat of safety.

He continued: “We promoted ourselves by handing out flyers in bars and clubs, before turning to social media to get the word out.

“Between that and people Google searching and hearing through word of mouth, we have built up a base of almost 450 active members.

“We have been very well supported by England Hockey in the last three years, focusing strongly on diversity and inclusion.”

Not only do the London Royals pride themselves on being a huge network of talented hockey players, but the family feel to the club sets it apart from others.

He continued: “We are planning a huge sports day next April to promote equality and get lots of people involved in sport. We also run events around Pride, Eurovision and Christmas to make our members feel like part of a family.

“We encourage people to come down to training sessions which are free. We can provide the kits and there is always a positive atmosphere at training and games.”

Andy is also a member of Out For Sport, which is an organisation bringing together members of the LGBTQ+ community through a variety of sports.

Nike have recently provided grants to help with funding taster sessions and coaching for younger members of the LGBTQ+ community.

The contribution, which totalled around £7,500, is a massive boost to drive participation from young people.

The Royals will travel to Bern next July to partake in the EuroGames, an event aimed at LGBTQ+ participants, and it is estimated there will be over 3000 participants as the annual event, which began in 1992, makes its way to Switzerland.

Another colossal LGBTQ+ sports association in London is badminton club Goslings.

Training in multiple locations across the capital, the club are yet another prime example of diversity and inclusion in British sport.

Goslings chair, Ubaid-ul Rehman, spoke about the birth of such an influential club in London, reflecting on the darkest days for the LGBTQ+ community.

He said: “The club was set up in the 1980s at a time when the AIDS epidemic was at its peak in the UK.

“People needed a safe space to come together, not to feel abused, learn something new, form a network and share their stories.

“The LGBTQ+ community were living in an environment where discrimination was rampant, but the club helped to form a bond which over the years became stronger and stronger.”

The club had lost a lot of young talent as a result of the epidemic, but an unbreakable bond blossomed, and the club continues to grow today.

Now, with over 200 members, the club is dominating in the world of badminton and participation is growing thanks to social media and promotional assistance from organisations such as Out For Sport and Badminton England.

Rather significant, at present, is the ongoing strengthening of the diversity and inclusion rate in football.

The Premier League has strongly promoted the Rainbow Laces campaign, which demonstrates their commitment to supporting the LGBTQ+ community, and anti-discrimination organisation Kick It Out allow those who witness any racist or homophobic speech at football grounds to report it via an app.

Grassroots football is tremendously welcoming to those from the LGBTQ+ community and one such club is Soho FC, with player-manager Austin Chessell explaining the rise in LGBTQ+-friendly football.

He said: “The club started with some small sided kickabouts in 2013. Only eight people showed up, but now, in 2022, we have three 11-a-side teams.

“During COVID, you could still play football when certain restrictions lifted. People wanted to come out and watch sports in the aftermath of lockdown, so a lot of people got in touch.”

The club compete in the London Unity League, with the ethos being that the general environment is a safe space for all.

Speaking of the upcoming World Cup and the difficulties attached, he said: “It is a time for the club to come together.

“We are lucky that there are pubs and bars supporting us where we can watch the games together in a nice environment.

“We have plenty of activities and reasons for people to join us. It’s not just about football – but friendships too.”

It’s a rather imperative time to be speaking about the general attitude around diversity in sport, and with the controversial comments from the foreign secretary, many may feel a discomfort in the tone of those in charge. It is, however, important to note that there are many welcoming sports clubs across the country and a list of those can be found at: LGBTQ+ Club Finder | Pride Sports.

Featured image credit: Onanymous via

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