How Inclusive are we really?

Gareth Thomas came out as the first Gay professional rugby player ten years ago but yesterday the emotion was still raw as he told the Federation of Irish Sport about his personal journey.

There was a real moment as he checked while telling about the reaction of his parents, almost overcome by the emotion still, and if he had some in the room that might not have been his fans beforehand, there were none by the time he finished to a standing ovation.

Despite his living the life of a Rugby superstar, captain of his country and of the British and Irish Lions, and being married, he admitted that he was lying to himself and the world every day.

The difficulty though of reaching his decision to come out, first to those he loved, then to those he played with and then to the world was incredibly personal and an indication that we can never truly know what is going on in the lives and souls of those we hold up as sporting heroes.

His was the keynote speech of a day devoted to posing the question of just how inclusive sport really is.

It has always stood out as a major anomaly that with a broadly accepted 10 per cent of the population being LBGT, only a tiny handful have ever come out in sport.

That begs the question of whether they are there but feel they cannot, even if these more liberal times live their life as they would want, or that they are rejected or turned off sport at an early age.

Regardless of which it does still suggest that sport has a long way to go.

So too is it the case with regard to disability. There are many great things being done by Paralympics Ireland, Special Olympics Ireland, Irish Wheelchair Association Sport and Cara amongst many but still, it is considered exceptional rather than the norm to be involved in sport with a disability.

It was a thought-provoking day, one which still posed more questions than answers, but one which was important if we are to live up to sports claim as being one of the best ways to spend your life, live within your community and be open and welcoming to all.

Our next Sport for Business Smart Minds Round Table will be on the ways in which business can support disability sport.  If you would like to be part of the discussion please contact us today.  We will announce a date and venue for the discussion on Monday, June 9th

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