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Playing Tough with Homophobia

Ian Watson's picture

Rough... Physical... Dirty... One of the world's most agressive sports takes on the fight to wipe homophobia off the pitch.

Muddy York at Pride 2014Muddy York at Pride 2014

It's a "man's game", rough, physical, and full of agression.  Bodies get bruised, bones get broken, shorts torn, and mud covers head to toe.  It can be compared to American Football, except different rules, more physical, and no pads.  So really football is a sport for whoosies in comparison.  It's Rugby.

International Gay Rugby (IGR) has been working for years providing opportunities for members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community (LGBT) to compete in rugby through tolerant and accepting clubs and teams, both primarily LGBT and LGBT-friendly.  With 54 member teams world-wide, including Toronto's own Muddy York RFC, the IGR works to eliminate homophobia in rugby through community outreach, competitive play and tournament events that stand for tolerance and acceptance in sports.

Most member clubs, including Muddy York RFC, are only teams, playing in otherwise predominantely "straight" leagues, yet hold their own, proving that gays can play just as hard and competitively as anyone else.

“Rugby is an inclusive sport which has at its heart character-building values of passion, integrity, solidarity, respect and discipline. The signing of this historic agreement underscores our commitment to those values and our strategic vision – a game for all, true to its values."

Bernard Lapasset, World Rugby Chairman 

Now, one of the world's most agressive sports is formally joining the fight to wipe homophobia off the pitch.

On March 5th, 2015, at World Rugby House in Dublin, IGR and World Rugby (the international governing body for Rugby), signed a historic agreement to collaborate on the continued promotion of equality and inclusivity in rugby.

As part of the agreement they commit to recognize and respect the right of any player, official and spectator to be involved with rugby without discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation or identification.

World Rugby and IGR will consult on issues of importance to members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community and the game of rugby, working with regional associations and member unions to improve tolerance and acceptance of LGBT players at all levels within rugby union.

“The bold step by World Rugby to commit to these shared purposes with IGR reflects the character-building values that are important to us all in the sport. Hopefully, other sporting governing bodies can look to World Rugby as a role model and follow suit.”
- Jeff Wilson, International Gay Rugby Chairman 

The two organizations will jointly develop educational tools to help World Rugby member unions to support in the elimination of homophobia in rugby.

World Rugby has also committed to help support the promotion and development of IGR’s events, which means the Bingham Cup, an international Gay Rugby tournament, one of the largest 15 a side rugby tournaments in the world, will grow even more in stature and exposure.

World Rugby Chairman Bernard Lapasset said “We look forward to collaborating with International Gay Rugby to promote inclusivity, equality and friendship as rugby continues to reach out, engage and inspire more men, women and children than ever before.”

International Gay Rugby Chairman Jeff Wilson said: “This is a momentous occasion for LGBT athletes, supporters, officials and administrators and the people who support them in the game of rugby. World Rugby is the first international sport organisation and governing body to commit to actively eliminating homophobia from any sport. We are committed to partnering with World Rugby to continue our work of making rugby the most inclusive and tolerant sport in the world.”

If you're interested in learning more about Rugby, or playing rugby; Toronto Muddy York RFC is a progressive, ALL-INCLUSIVE rugby club in the Greater Toronto Area providing the sport of rugby to the gay community and their friends.

Established in 2003, they primarily compete against teams in the Toronto Rugby Union, but also travel for exhibition matches against other teams, and host the annual Beaver Bowl Tournament, when other IGRAB (International Gay Rugby Association and Board) and regional clubs are invited to Toronto over the Labour Day weekend.