Speaking at the launch of the ‘Bring It On’ GAA campaign to increase participation in Gaelic games by 30% from those from diverse backgrounds by 2025, top-tier GAA referee David Gough says the GAA is changing.
In a new report published on Tuesday June 22 for SuperValu’s ‘Bring It On’ GAA campaign, they found that 85% of those surveyed would like to see more players from a diverse background on their inter county teams.
In the last two years, the GAA has done more to be inclusive than at any time in its 135-year history. But Gough, an openly gay man and regarded by many as Ireland’s top Gaelic football referee, knows there is a long way to go.
David came out in 2011; 10 years after coming out there are still no other openly gay men in the GAA. The ‘Bring It On’ report shows that LGBTQ+ participation in the GAA is rated at 34% showing “that we have moved the dial in recent years with more to be done.”
Speaking on Virgin Media tonight, Gough said: “There are a huge amount of people that are afraid to come out; you only have to look at 64 inter county teams, League of Ireland, we’ve an awful lot of international players playing in the premiership, we have four provincial rugby teams, hockey, equestrianism, boxing.
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“We could name a number of sports here. And there are no elite gay male athletes coming out in those sports, the questions needs to be asked – Why? Why are they struggling? What are the issues? What are the barriers and hurdles that are stopping them coming out?”
Gough feels that the issues and barriers are perceived, as he has received nothing but support from his community and the media after his coming out. But he acknowledges that it is more difficult for those outside of Dublin to come out to their GAA teammates.
“Has [acceptance] trickled down to the clubs or the grassroots level? Are they willing to have those difficult conversations? I don’t see it yet. The further away from Dublin you go into the countryside, the more difficult it gets.”
David also spoke about how difficult it is to live a closeted life, saying that it is an extremely tiring process to have to pretend to be someone else all the time, and to be worrying constantly about how you might give away the fact that you’re gay.
“I have a list the length of my arm of people who contacted me over the years whose brother, son, or partner died by suicide because they weren’t able to come out to their GAA teammates.”
A new TV advert for the ‘Bring It On’ campaign shows hope for more inclusivity in the GAA, across all communities.
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