Two of Ireland's biggest LGBTQ+ rugby clubs talk to Sporting Pride about the power of community

Emerald Warriors and Belfast Azlans share how they've coped during recent times and kept their communities connected.

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As part of their ongoing #GetOutGetActive campaign, Sporting Pride caught up with Ireland’s leading LGBTQ+ inclusive rugby clubs to find out how they are supporting their players throughout this difficult time and what others can gain from joining their clubs. 

Rugby fans have much to look forward to in the month of October with the return of the Six Nations Championship later this month. The sport of rugby has provided some of the most high profile coming out stories, with Gareth Thomas, Lindsay Peat and referee Nigel Owens leading the way. LGBTQ+ inclusive rugby clubs have provided further support for our community in terms of peer support and promoting physical activity. Two of these clubs, Dublin’s Emerald Warriors and the Belfast Azlans, continue to work hard throughout the Covid crisis to keep their members safe and well.

Richie Fagan from the Emerald Warriors states that, like everyone else, they found this new normal particularly tough, but they have risen to the challenge. “As a collective, we’ve taken our training online, ensured each member connects with members they’d not know in our club, held social events online (including a number of fundraisers), and also held our AGM online in September.”

Likewise, the Belfast Azlans took their training and events online when needed. “This helped the players maintain some form of social contact. This period also allowed us to reflect on the purpose of the team and focus on outreach and building our player base.

Both the Azlans and the Warriors believe that players benefit in various ways from their membership with the clubs. Members are a “part of something bigger” say the Azlans. “It gives them something different to do, to channel a bad week at work or at college or uni into something constructive, learning new skills, getting fit both in body and mind, building confidence and demolishing stereotypes.”

Richie agrees and states that members get to meet like minded people while engaging in activities that support their well being. “The support systems we have put in place adds another layer of health and well being. We’re a social group – a family, so many of our members realise the value of the club and it keeps us smiling on the dark days”.

The Warriors have big dreams in terms of what can be achieved by the club and its supporters over the next few years. They are currently working on their three to five year plan, which includes establishing their own home grounds, forming a touch rugby team, bringing more of our community to the game, and offering the best in coaching and development for their members to excel on and off the pitch. 

The Azlans are working towards getting more game play in the immediate future, but in the long term they want to grow their number of players and introduce new people to the game of rugby. However, in order to do this, they want to reset to a certain degree. “If we get a new influx of players who have never played before, we want to provide them with a similar experience that the current player base has had over the past few years and develop the new players to a point where they can start playing games too”.

On that note, if you’re interested in challenging yourself and taking on a new sport, you can find details of how to contact both clubs at the links below:

For more chat with Sporting Pride and the rugby teams, check out the Emerald Warriors here and the Azlans interview here.

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