Gareth Thomas slams rugby team for perpetuating homophobic abuse in sport

The former rugby star expressed his disappointment with the Catalans Dragons after their decision to sign homophobic player Israel Folau.

Gareth Thomas and Israel Folau

Gareth Thomas has spoken out against the Catalans Dragons rugby team and their recent decision to sign player Israel Folau. It was announced early in the week that Folau would join the team after his contract was terminated with Rugby Australia last year following homophobic comments he made on social media.

The former Wales rugby union captain is now calling for the British Government to put legislation in place in a bid to tackle homophobia within the sport.

Gareth Thomas, who is openly gay, expressed his disappointment with the Catalans, saying he will never watch any of the matches that Folau is playing. He took to Twitter to comment on the situation saying that he was very upset by the news and he has received support from fans and players alike.

Keegan Hirst, the UK’s only current openly gay player, also criticised the decision to take on Folau, telling BBC Radio 5 Live: “It is really disappointing and very frustrating. Rugby league champions itself on being tolerant, inclusive and diverse. People work really hard promoting those values and this signing and the lack of being able to stop it by the RFL and Super League is a slap in the face to all those people’s hard work.”

Many more people and organisations have also come out to denounce the Catalan Dragons decision including the Wigan Warriors who are scheduled to play against them on March 22. The Wigan Warriors therefore have announced that on March 22 the club will celebrate a “Pride Day” as a form of protest against the homophobic player. 

On the day, the players will wear rainbow socks and laces at the match and local LGBT+ groups will be invited to the game as well as working with charities.

Kris Radlinski, Wigan Warriors executive director, spoke about the club’s support of the LGBT+ community, stating; “Here at Wigan Warriors we are committed to the core values of Inclusion and Respect. Our community foundation have a long history of supporting local LGBTQ+ groups and initiatives, and we want everyone who engages with our game to feel welcome, valued and most of all, respected. Rugby League has a strong history of inclusion, of breaking down barriers and of being an forward-thinking sport. I think that today more than any day that it is vitally important we reiterate that message. We’re looking forward to working with charities, local and hopefully national groups, to make this day a success.”

Gareth Thomas is now calling on the British Government to tackle homophobic abuse in sport, particularly football, asking for amendments to the Football Offences Act to help address the issue.

This season has seen a number of incidents of alleged homophobic abuse at sporting grounds across the UK. Thomas spoke about this on BBC Sounds’ “Don’t Tell Me the Score” podcast, saying; “What happens in sport, I believe, in football definitely, is everyone in football is very good at reacting to situations. So we will have an act of racism, it hits the headlines, everyone comes out reacting in the right way. Another two or three months later another racist act or homophobic act or transphobic act will occur and everyone will react in the right way – but when you look at it seven months down the line, nothing has happened because everyone has reacted enough.”

Before the UK general election, the sports star issued a direct plea for change in legislation to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, saying that it is his responsibility to support the people in the country; “If you are running a country then you run the country to support everyone and to make better conditions for people to live in. Yes I am passionate about the LGBT issues, but I am just as passionate about the racism issue – it is in there, it is so simple, so just make the change. Do it Boris, do it.” 

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