Two friends have launched North Wales’ first ever LGBTQ+ rugby club, offering a safe and inclusive environment for people to take part in sport.
The Conwy Dragons are one of a handful of clubs across Wales set up with the purpose of being fully inclusive. People from all backgrounds can take part, in an environment free from misconceptions or judgement.
Demand to join the team has increased significantly since its formation in October 2021. Starting with just three players, they now have over 24 people involved in the sessions. Most of the players are from Colwyn Bay, but some travel over an hour each week to participate.
Matthew Fletcher started the club with his friend Rob Owen, as they never felt entirely comfortable playing rugby for a ‘traditional’ club. The club also acts as a welcoming space for people from LGBTQ+ backgrounds to come together and socialise.
Matthew said: “There’s a handful of us who have played the game a bit before, but for most of the team this is probably the first time they’ve picked up a ball since school. At the moment we’re just building up people’s confidence, in the hopes of playing teams soon.”
“We’ve had lots of interest, because for a lot of people it’s an outlet for LGBTQ+ people to socialise and meet up in a welcoming environment. This is probably why the club has really taken off.”
“Though we’re predominately a gay club, we do welcome straight allies that want to play with us. Anyone is welcome to come and give it a try, there’s no pressure to commit.”
“Hopefully we can expand in the future and the idea of setting up a touch rugby scheme with all genders is something we would love to do.”
For Daniel Eastwood, it was a chance to reconnect with a sport he hadn’t played since he was a teenager.
He said “I’ve wanted to get back into rugby for a really long time – I’ve not played since I was in school and this just seemed like the perfect opportunity to join an inclusive team.”
“Everyone’s been amazingly friendly, it’s really welcoming, and I couldn’t have meet a better group of people.”
The Conwy Dragons successfully applied for the Sport Wales’ Be Active Wales Fund, which aims to reduce inequality, create long-term sustainability and introduce new or different ways of operating. Funding can be used for many purposes, including to buy equipment that allows more people to take part in sport.
Brian Davies, Sport Wales’ Acting CEO said: “Using Welsh Government money and re-purposed funds from the National Lottery, the Be Active Wales Fund offers support for clubs to not only improve the experience for their existing members, but to also consider how they can reach new audiences to ensure that everyone in Wales has the opportunity to be active through sport.
“Whether you’re a club looking for funding to help train new volunteers, or maybe you’d like to upgrade your facilities or equipment, or perhaps you have other innovative ideas to help your local community to be more active, please visit our website to find out more.”