Bord Gáis Energy launched their new ‘State of Play’ campaign yesterday, focusing on the inclusion of the LGBTQ+ community in the world of sports. To mark the launch, the company released the findings of consumer research conducted about team sports.
A sponsor of the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) Hurling All-Ireland Senior Championship, Bord Gáis Energy brought together popular figures from Irish athletics and the Irish LGBTQ+ community for the campaign, with revered hurlers Joe Canning and Gearóid Hegarty and activist Rory O’Neill, AKA Panti Bliss, serving as the campaign’s figureheads.
“We wanted to use our sponsorship of the GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Championship as a high-profile platform to highlight the importance of inclusivity and allyship in team sports,” Dave Kirwan, managing director of Bord Gáis Energy, said in a statement. “We’re passionate about promoting an inclusive culture where difference is valued, and each and every person can thrive.”
Bord Gáis Energy’s research resulted in meaningful findings about popular attitudes regarding inclusion in sports. 78% of those surveyed wanted to see more famous athletes giving support to the LGBTQ+ community, and even more (84%) felt that “sport can play an important role in promoting a positive discussion around inclusivity,” according to a statement from Bord Gáis Energy.
The research additionally looked into what people understood to be preventing the LGBTQ+ community from playing more team sports. 33% of respondents felt concerns about exclusion kept LGBTQ+ people from joining teams.
While another 38% of respondents felt a lack of professional athletes who belong to the LGBTQ+ community constituted a barrier to participation, and 35% answered that a lack of role models played a major role in this, only 27% “want to see more visibility of LGBTQI+ players at elite level” in order to increase participation.
Regardless of the research findings, Kirwan noted that Bord Gáis Energy considers fostering better inclusion of the LGBTQ+ community in sports to be a needed initiative year round, and not solely during Pride month.
Speaking about his joining the ‘State of Play’ campaign, famed hurler Gearóid Hegarty commented on Ireland’s need to change the culture around sports so that the LGBTQ+ community feels included and truly welcomed for who they are.
“I believe it’s hugely important that we work towards making ours a fully inclusive society, where people feel free to be who they are both on and off the pitch,” Hegarty said. “ I have gotten so much out of my own involvement in sport, and I would love to think that that anyone else who wants to get involved in sport can do so without worrying what people will say or think.”
In another element of their campaign, Bord Gáis Energy is selling limited-edition ‘GAA County Pride’ T-shirts. According to the company’s statement, “all proceeds will go to Focus Ireland to support young adults from the LGBTQI+ community who are experiencing homelessness.” The statement explained that the shirts aim “to encourage support for the LGBTQI+ community and showcase that the GAA is a place for everyone.”
The company’s statement also reported that the GAA is working to dismantle barriers to participation in partnership with the charity organisation BeLonG To, which serves LGBTQ+ Irish youth, through an online awareness module to be used within the GAA.
Nonetheless, encouraging participation may remain difficult. Despite 99% of players saying they would support a teammate who came out, 50% of players surveyed recently thought a teammate might face prejudice or discrimination if they were to come out as LGBTQ+. These findings came from a survey by the Gaelic Players Association (GPA) earlier this year, demonstrating that the world of Irish sports is not perceived to be as accepting as it might like to be, as indicated by Bord Gáis Energy and the GAA.
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