Rugby club celebrates being first in England to receive International Gay Rugby membership

By Will Brook

A rugby club is celebrating after becoming the first nationally to become a member of an international inclusivity organisation, proving that to champion inclusivity, you just have to try.

Mitcham and Carshalton Rugby Club, Morden, has announced it has been granted Affiliate Membership of the IGR (International Gay Rugby), the first club in England to receive it.

This means the club is registered to support the goals and aims of the inclusive rugby community, and is granted non-voting membership of IGR.

This follows a move by the club in 2020 to share facilities with gay and inclusive team, the London Stags. Some players for Mitcham and Carshalton also train with the London Stags.

London Stags player Kevin Penter, 37, of Cairns Avenue, Mitcham, said: “It feels fantastic to be part of a club that has made this historic move.

“This is a significant step in demonstrating that sport should be for all, irrespective of sexuality, race or gender.

“To have a club publically support us, as an ally, to promote inclusivity in sport will act as a precedent for other clubs and other sports.

“It is important that we are moving away from the idea of tolerance and acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community to a position of inclusivity and active engagement of how things can be changed so that everybody has the ability to be fully themselves in any setting.

“Personally it has opened up another avenue to enjoy a sport that means a lot to me. LGBTQ+ individuals sometimes don’t look for opportunities to be involved in their direct communities because historically we have had to form our own communities.

“Joining M&C is giving me the opportunity to be more involved in the community that I live in. It’s also a lot of fun with a great group of guys, and during the COVID pandemic it has been a vital outlet.”

Michael Smith, Chairman of the London Stags, said: “We’re thrilled that M&C have become an affiliate member of the IGR. M&C welcomed us into their rugby home and family. It feels very apt that they have joined ours too!”

Mitcham’s Director of Rugby, Edward Marsh, said: “This is another step in creating a club that is welcoming to all, open to all, offering Rugby for all.

“We will never stop the pursuit of excellence on and off the pitch as we continue to grow, this association is another important milestone on that journey.”

Prior to the lockdown the club planned to host London Pride 7s, a competition focused around promoting inclusivity, which clubs from up and down the country would have competed in.

The event had to be postponed due to the lockdown, but the club is confident it will take place this year once it is safe.

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