Downing Street visit a momentous occasion for Rugby League

Date published: Saturday, June 25, 2011

RFL Chief Executive Nigel Wood has hailed this week’s visit to Number 10 Downing Street as a momentous occasion for the sport after he joined Engage Super League club directors and Sheffield Eagles Chief Executive Mark Aston at the Prime Minister’s annual reception for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
The reception, which focused on tackling homophobia in sport, brought together representatives of sport governing bodies, associations and clubs that signed up to the Government’s Charter Against Homophobia in Sport alongside some of the most famous names from the LGBT community including Lord Chris Smith, former Wimbledon champion Billie Jean King and celebrated actor Ian McKellan.
“It was a tremendous achievement for the sport and all the clubs involved to have their success in this field celebrated alongside some of the world’s most famous names from sport and entertainment at such a prestigious venue,” said Wood.
“It was a great experience for us all to attend Downing Street and to meet some of the other leaders within the LGBT communities and to be recognised in this way has given everyone a great boost.
“The sport should be very proud of the work it has undertaken in the last few years to help eradicate all forms of discrimination from Rugby League.
“Great strides have been made in our equality and diversity programmes and we will continue to be vigilant to ensure that all forms of discrimination have no place in  Rugby League.”
Following the reception at Downing Street, Rugby League’s recognition as a leader in sporting equality was further rewarded with over 20 members of parliament, from five different parties, signing an Early Day Motion to congratulate Rugby League, the sport’s governing body and the clubs for their stance in tackling homophobia and transphobia in sport and making the game open and welcome for all.
Recognition in parliament follows a series of ground breaking events for Rugby League, after Sheffield Eagles became the first mainstream UK sports team to play in a specially designed shirt bearing the slogan, “Homophobia Tackle It!” in March, weeks after the RFL became the first sporting organisation to enter the Stonewall Top 100 Employers Index.
“It was a fantastic experience and a great day for everyone involved and it was great to see such a high level of Rugby League representation at Number 10,” said Sarah Williams, the RFL’s Equality and Diversity Manager.
“The overwhelming thing for all of us was to see that so many people had heard about the work we have done and that they all mentioned how impressed they were with what we have achieved and what we are doing. To have sports teams and personalities complimenting us for the work we have been doing is something that we can all be very proud of.
“The reception at Number 10 has given all the clubs a tangible result for the work they have been doing and helps inspire everyone to keep going and continue to improve the sports entire diversity programme and ensure we work towards removing all forms of discrimination from Rugby League.”