Government backing for Eagles initiative
Ministers praise decision to become first pro sports club to tale a public stance against homophobia in sport
SHEFFIELD EAGLES v WIDNES VIKINGS
Sunday 13th March 2011, Bramall Lane, Sheffield
Sheffield Eagles’ decision to use their Co-operative Championship game against Widnes Vikings to take a stand against homophobia in sport has won the backing of two Government Ministers and the Leader of Sheffield City Council.
On Sunday 13 March at Bramall Lane, Sheffield, the Eagles will become the first professional sports team in the UK to proudly wear a kit bearing an anti-homophobia slogan. In partnership with LGBT History Month, Pride Sports and the RFL, the Eagles will play in a specially commissioned kit bearing the words “Homophobia: Tackle It!”.
The Eagles stance – a sporting first – has been widely praised, most notably by Sports & Olympics Minister Hugh Robertson MP and Equalities Minister Lynn Featherstone MP.
Hugh Robertson MP said: “Homophobia has no place in sport and is not acceptable in any form. Sport should be a place for everyone to feel welcome whether participating or as a spectator in an environment that is free from fear of abuse or ridicule. There is still work to be down to break down the barriers in all forms of discrimination in sport, which is why I am supporting the good work of the Sheffield Eagles in backing the Rugby Football League, Pride Sports and LGBT History Month’s ‘Homophobia: Tackle It!” campaign.”
Lynne Featherstone MP said: “Homophobia and transphobia have caused too much harm and ruined too many lives. This 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 to 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, Sheffield Eagles are making a powerful statement that society is changing and together we can make a difference.”
Since announcing their decision to dedicate their first Cooperative Championship game of 2011 to the fight against homophobia in sport, Sheffield Eagles have been inundated with letters of support from across the world.
In a touching letter, Leader of Sheffield City Council, Councillor Paul Scriven said: “It is with great pride and pleasure as the first ‘out’ gay Leader of Sheffield City Council that I give you support on behalf of the City for this historic event which really shows that people should be accepted on merit and not stereotyped.
“I would particularly like to thank Sheffield Eagles, the RFL and PRIDE Sports for making this event possible.
“The game of Rugby League is showing great vision in supporting this game today and making Sheffield a City where everyone truly matters.”
Praise for the Eagles initiative has also come from within the LGBT community. Alex Fallis, Chairman of the International Gay Rugby Association and Board – an organisation for LGBT rugby union players and teams – wrote: “On behalf of the International Gay Rugby Association and Board (IGRAB), I would like to thank you for the positive work you are doing with this anti-homophobia initiative.
“Though we play a different code, your actions ae serving as an inspiration to our clubs and their members. Both you and the RFL recognise that sport is the purest form of equality. Matters that have previously divided people off the pitch have no bearing to whether someone can tackle, pass or kick, and we greatly appreciate your making a public statement to that effect.”
In recognition of their groundbreaking stance, Pride Sports have decided to present Sheffield Eagles with the very first Pride Sports Challenge Cup. This new trophy, which will be handed to Eagles’ captain Jack Howieson prior to kick-off, will be awarded annually to sports teams, clubs and individuals who go out of their way to champion LGBT causes.
Tickets for Sheffield Eagles game against Widnes Vikings are available now from the Sheffield United ticket office at Bramall Lane (0871 19951889).
Replicas of the Eagles’ historic “Homophobia: Tackle It!” shirts can be purchased now from www.eaglespride.co.uk