The President of Emerald Warriors, an inclusive rugby club, Richie Fagan has described the situation surrounding the social media comments of Israel Folau as “bizarre”.
Last month, the former Australian star posted on Instagram that “hell awaits” drunks, homosexuals, adulters, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists, and idolators.
Folau’s post received a huge backlash and his multi-million dollar contract was subsequently terminated by Rugby Australia for a high-level breach of the professional players’ code of conduct.
Fagan believes the actions of the association spoke volumes, especially considering that Australia legalised same-sex marriage in 2017.
“That was a bizarre situation but it had left quite a deep feeling within us. Our WhatsApp groups within the club were lit [up] you know saying ‘what the hell is going on here, like is this guy for real, is he back in Biblical times? This is 2019’. And you know Australia, look what they did last year when they brought their marriage referendum through.
“But it just goes to show the importance of what we’re doing and the importance that you can never be complacent. For young kids who see that player, a phenomenal player, as a role model, we so welcome what the Australians have done to take such a strong stance on it. But it just goes to show there’s still a job to be done, as I keep saying.
“We still know that there is inequality and we have to keep not losing grip – not to delve into the negative, we look at the positive of it – and don’t lose sight of making sure equality and inclusivity is the key to what we do.”
Fagan was speaking ahead of the Union Cup 2019 which takes place in Dublin on June 8th and 9th. The competition is Europe’s biggest LGBT+ inclusive rugby tournament with 45 teams from 15 countries expected to take part in the two-day festival at DCU Sports Campus.
Nigel Owens will officiate the tournament’s final.
Team captain, Oran Sweeney, believes it is more important than ever that the tournament highlights the inclusivity of rugby in the wake of Folau’s comments.
“His comments were obviously terrible but they brought it to the forefront of the media and given it attention which is great because it puts it in the spotlight and it really makes people think of what people should be doing or how people should be acting.
“On the eve of the World Cup, on the Eve of Pride 2019, we have the largest European LGBT+ rugby tournament taking place in Dublin and it’s not just for members of the LGBT+ community, it’s not just for members of the rugby community, it’s for absolutely everyone.
“We’re inviting family, we’re inviting friends, we’re inviting everyone in Ireland as a whole to come to DCU to watch us play rugby and get a flavour for what inclusive rugby actually is.”
The most recent statistics show that only 17% of the LGBT+ community are involved in team sports. Fagan maintains that the Emerald Warriors have a responsibility to do their part to increase that percentage through the Union Cup and hopes that it will be their lasting legacy.
“We were shocked ourselves. It resonated quite deeply but then on reflection, we could see how it could be. We could see the job we were doing in the community, not realising we had such an important role bringing people through who had never played a sport before and so much so that it is going to be part of our legacy.
“The next bit of research we are doing at the moment, we’ve got the support of Government Ministers who will be making recommendations from this piece of research to go back into Ireland’s call to have by 2027 250,0000 or more people participating in sport. We will have recommendations that we can add to that.
“So, it is a shocking stat but we’re going to make a difference and make a change to that.”
The team behind GUINNESS is flying its colours for the 2019 Union Cup, as it unveiled GUINNESS Union Cup Gates to support its partnership with Europe’s biggest LGBT+ inclusive rugby tournament which takes place in Dublin, Ireland for the first time.
The world-famous GUINNESS Gates at Rainsford Street have been completely transformed for the first time in their history to promote Union Cup which takes place from 8th to 9th June at DCU Campus.