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New research indicates a welcoming environment for LGBTQ+ players among inter-county squads

New research indicates a welcoming environment for LGBTQ+ players among inter-county squads

New research carried out by the Gaelic Players Association, in conjunction with Newstalk’s Pat Kenny Show, has revealed that 45% of inter-county players are already aware of an LGBTQ+ teammate within their squad, while 99% of inter-county players would be supportive an LGBTQ+ teammate if they came out.

The research took place in recent weeks under the guidance of the GPA’s LGBTQ+ Working Group.  The findings will now help shape GPA policy as part of the association’s work in the area of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion which is a central focus for the players’ body.

714 inter-county players took part in the research (41% M:F 59%), with 93% of squads represented by the GPA (114 squads) contributing to the data.

While 45% of players overall are aware of a teammate being part of the LGBTQ+ community, there is significantly higher visibility among female players.  69% of female players are aware of an LGBTQ+ teammate compared to 10% of male players.

Another key finding shows that the expectation that LGBTQ+ players would face discrimination is much lower among players who have an out teammate, at just 18%, compared with 50% among all respondents. This suggests a much more positive lived experience for out players than what is expected.

Speaking on the publication of the research findings, GPA CEO Tom Parsons said; “We know that equality, diversity and inclusion are really important values to our inter-county players. As the players’ representative body inclusion aligns with our values of being leaders and creating a culture of caring. We want to ensure everyone is respected and welcomed at all levels of Gaelic Games, and for players to be able to be their authentic selves in all areas of their lives.

“We have established an LGBTQ+ Working Group and they have identified the importance of allies from outside of the LGBTQ+ community in leading change in the culture and perception of Gaelic games. Therefore, it is very encouraging to see that this data shows a willingness to be supportive and welcoming of an LGBTQ+ teammate.”

Gemma Begley is the GPA’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Manager.  She commented; “This research is about showing current and future LGBTQ+ players that maybe their perception of the reaction they might face from teammates is not the reality. However, this is not intended to put any individuals under pressure to come out.

“It is hugely heartening to see some of these numbers but particularly that, where players are aware of a teammate from the LGBTQ+ community, over 8 in 10 feel a player would not face prejudice or discrimination if they came out.

“It is a positive that there are current players, both male and female, out within their squads who are able to bring their whole authentic self to all areas of their lives.”

Aidan Walsh, Chair of Sporting Pride, added; “In what has been a horrific few weeks for the LGBTQ+ community in Ireland, Sporting Pride is delighted to see this important piece of research from the GPA and the Pat Kenny Show – and the 99% acceptance among elite Gaelic players of a team mate coming out as LGBTQ+ is hugely encouraging. 

“The research provides some interesting insights for sports administrators to consider and raises important issues about inclusiveness and acceptance in female teams compared to males:

  • What can male team sports learn from their female counterparts about locker room culture, language and providing better support and being more empathetic towards teammates? 
  • Why is there less awareness of LGBTQ+ male players at an elite level? 
  • Are the systems in place to make young LGBTQ+ male players feel safe and welcome in the sport, or do they drop out at an early age?

“Sporting Pride commends the GPA for conducting this research. In what can be a very lonely and isolating situation, the results will hopefully provide much needed comfort and relief to any LGBTQ+ inter-county player who is not yet out.  Sporting Pride encourages any individual dealing with issues around their sexuality to confide in a friend, teammate or reach out to the GPA for support.”  

The GPA has identified a number of themes that have come back from the research responses and will now work with everyone involved in Gaelic games and wider sporting bodies on initiatives for both LGBTQ+ players and their allies, to ensure a safe and welcoming environment where players can be their authentic selves.

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