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Sport Wales

Bone of Contention

Pick a contentious issue about which you care deeply — it could be the same-sex marriage debate, or just a disagreement you’re having with a friend. Write a post defending the opposite position, and then reflect on what it was like to do that.

Daily Prompt (but I’m only doing the first part – complaining!)

Not really issues I care deeply about, but a couple of things that have really been getting to me.

The first is about the hard time Rhys Priestland got from the rugby fans, which led to him needing professional help; and the fact that the Welsh coaching squad asked the fans to give Dan Biggar a chance to keep the pressure off him.

Priestland did get quite a lot of stick, and some very nasty comments were made. I don’t think I said anything majorly harsh about him personally, but I did question the choice of him over Hook when he had played badly in game after game.

My bone of contention is why the fans are being blamed for this. We weren’t giving him a hard time for no good reason: he made many mistakes again and again. And if it wasn’t for the coaches selecting him again and again, we wouldn’t have had any reason for complaining.We just couldn’t understand why the coaches apparently couldn’t see what we could.

And my second bone of contention is the volume of anti-rugby posts on Facebook during the 6 Nations. Yes, lots of people support rugby just for those 6 weeks and post statuses about the scores. Yes, they only support the national team and don’t support a domestic team.

But let’s take a deeper look at this. First of all, I and most of the people I know are in North Wales. Our regional team is the Scarlets, who are based in Llanelli. Which is in South Wales. Go figure. So there aren’t really any local teams for us to support for the rest of the year.

And secondly, rugby doesn’t get much media coverage, except during the national games such as the 6 Nations. So excuse us for getting a bit excited for a few weeks of the year.

What really gets to me is that most of these comments come from football fans who hate rugby. What do they really have to complain about?! Football is everywhere from August to May, and even longer if there are international games on.

Why can’t they just leave our time alone?

Maybe I’m completely in the wrong and I’m the only friend of theirs who doesn’t give them a hard time about posting football statuses, or tell them they should support Welsh rugby because it’s patriotic. I doubt it. I think I’ll just need to remember to shift them all to my ‘acquaintances’ list before next year, so I don’t have to put up with their comments.

I’m trying to get into regional rugby, but it’s difficult when you don’t have a real reason to support a team, and just want to choose one. We have a relatively new team up north – RGC 1404 – who are looking pretty good and are (I believe) supposed to be our regional team and regional development base. But I’m unclear as to whether they would be able to get into the Pro12, or just be able to get promoted to the Premiership. And they’re still a bit away from that.

Sociology Sport

Homosexuality in Sport

Apparently I haven’t already blogged about this, which surprises me. I watched the Amal Fashanu documentary about her uncle, Justin Fashanu, who was the first footballer to come out, and later committed suicide. It surprises me that I don’t remember it because I really liked football in the late 90s.

Anyway, the programme disappointed me slightly: I think I was expecting something a bit more hard-hitting, where she would really get at the system that condones homophobia in football, and sport more generally. But, from the perspective that it was obviously a difficult time for her family, and that she had to ask her dad some difficult questions, I think she was very brave. Amal certainly came across much better than her dad did.

It was really disheartening to see how evasive almost everyone she talked to was, and how difficult it was for her to even get anyone to talk to her. The FA seemed to employ some sort of misguided equality tactics, by sending a woman to speak to her. Because it’s not just a boys’ club, you know, women work there too (maybe they should’ve sent a black woman so they could tick two boxes). And they had to meet outside. Could they not even let into the building and offer her a coffee?!

In fact the (surprisingly) best contributor from the British football world was Joey Barton. Probably the player with the worst reputation in professional football, chastising the industry for its poor attitude towards homosexuality. As well as Joey, Amal also managed to interview the only openly gay footballer in the world: Anton Hysen, in Sweden. You would hope that the positivity he has experienced would encourage others.

I completely understand why footballers and athletes are apprehensive about coming out. It’s a sad state of affairs that they have to be. But I really can’t wrap my head around why people have a problem with homosexuality. Does it really come down to being worried that a gay footballer might fancy his team mate? To not wanting to be looked at in that way? Are they worried that if two footballers on the same team are gay they might start kissing in the changing room? Even if it did happen, that would still be less shocking than what some get up to. And what are the fans worried about?

Apparently this is also an issue in the US, where the You Can Play project takes this stand:

Locker rooms should be safe and sports venues should be free from homophobia. Athletes should be judged on talent, heart and work ethic, not sexual orientation.

The Justin Campaign does similar work in the UK:

The Justin Campaign seeks to challenge the stereotypes and misconceptions that exist around LGB & T (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Trans) people and work towards a future where the visibility of LGB & T people in football is both accepted and celebrated.

The Justin Campaign

I stopped following football a few years ago when I decided that there was no justification for their incredibly high wages, and the Russian oligarchs were taking over at Chelsea, starting the trend of millionaire buy-outs.I switched over to rugby. I’m incredibly proud of Gareth Thomas for being the world’s first openly gay team professional sportsman; and for the rugby industry being so supportive.

I really hope that the visibility this issue is gaining will lead to more people showing their support, so that gay sports people do not have to fear the consequences of coming out.