‘An amazing shoot!’: Manchester Village Spartans rugby players bare all to support Worldwide Roar

Published by Jon Holmes on

IGR-affiliated club help to send out ‘Men As Allies’ message as new Worldwide Roar 2022 calendar is launched on International Men’s Day; “We love the philosophy,” says Spartans’ Yoshio Tazaki; project continues to tackle issues related to hyper-masculinity; sales of annual calendar go towards funding Sport Allies charity

By Jon Holmes

Manchester Village Spartans RUFC has over 160 players signed up as members across rugby union and touch rugby codes

Players from Manchester Village Spartans RUFC are among the models in the new Worldwide Roar naked calendar for 2022, encouraging men everywhere to drop their guard and loosen up.

The inclusive photography project launched its latest annual collection on International Men’s Day, with sales of the calendar once again helping to fund the WR’s affiliated Sport Allies charity as well as academic research into masculinity and the causes and effects of homophobia.

The calendar showcases athletes of different ethnicities, ages and body types who offer nudity as a pledge of allydom.

Since being founded in 1999 as one of the world’s first gay and inclusive rugby clubs, the Spartans have offered a route to a healthier lifestyle for men who may not have previously considered participating in a team sport. They are now part of a worldwide collective of over 100 IGR clubs and work closely with the RFU and others to grow inclusive rugby and participation in sport.

Spartans spokesman Yoshio Tazaki said: “We love the philosophy behind the Roar.

“Although we were originally established with a small grant to help gay men lead more physically active lives, we are now fully integrated into competitive rugby and our men’s team includes players of all sexualities.”

Spartans player Dan added: “What was so amazing about the shoot for the Roar was how a massive group of gay and straight men, Spartans and guests, all got naked together and created a truly memorable and uplifting experience.

“There were hilarious moments but what brought me the most joy was to see so many men drop their guards and embrace this very unusual moment together.

“We’re already planning to do more shoots with the Roar and would recommend it to any sports club.”

The theme of International Men’s Day 2022 – ‘better relations between men and women’ – reflects a commitment to confront sexism and misogyny, something that the Roar has long supported.

The WR campaign began back in 2010 when straight male athletes posed nude for a mainly gay male fanbase to highlight and challenge homophobia in sport.

The #MeToo movement showed that there was a wider job to be done, and WR expanded its focus to highlight the distinction between how men and women are treated in society.

The brutality that led to the #BLM movement, the rise of domestic abuse during lockdown, and the recent murder of Sarah Everard by a serving police officer, have all shown again what a crucial role men must play in exploring and promoting new, healthier versions of masculinity.

WR project founder Angus Malcolm suggests that men must actively choose to become allies.  

“It’s easy for men to blame problems like misogyny, homophobia, racism, abusive pornography and male violence against women on ‘a few bad guys’.

“The reality is that men who aren’t actively working to change things are complicit in maintaining a world where bad guy behaviour is still OK.”

He added: “It’s not about where you put your penis, or what colour it is, or how politely and consensually you introduce it to the world. The clue is that you have one.

“Men live in and help to maintain a system that has benefitted them at the expense of others. It’s only by acknowledging our privilege as men and the damaged version of masculinity that has poisoned the lives of many, including men themselves, that we can escape this legacy.

“We can find our own freedom by helping others to find theirs. As allies.”

The solution that the Worldwide Roar has developed over more than a decade is to ask men to confront their relationships with masculinity from the ground up – and that means getting naked.

Long-time participant Lucas has been getting naked for the project since 2015 and is proud of the calendar’s evolution.

“I was part of the original ‘Warwick Rowers’ team, and it was quite different back then. We were all good mates from similar backgrounds in very similar situations in life.

“It was still a massively enlightening journey for us to get naked together and show our bodies to the world, but the Roar has now become a much more powerful and life-changing experience for the guys who join. Men of different ages, sexualities, ethnicities and cultural backgrounds all come together and get naked.”

Nick, who works in publishing, joined the project in 2019 through his membership of an inclusive rowing club in London. Making his second calendar appearance this year, he loves the direction the project is taking as it expands from rowing into other sports.  

“We need to redefine the all-male space – the Roar does that. Instead of enabling toxic banter among men who think alike, the Roar creates a healing space where a diverse range of men can come together to explore what masculinity means to them.

“It gives them perspective on how differently we experience life. It’s the key to becoming allies.”

Learn more about the Worldwide Roar in this Sky Sports feature article featuring Olympic rower and WR model, Robbie Manson!

Meanwhile, the Roar is now the central subject of the Athletes 4 Action research project run jointly by universities in the UK and Canada.

The research team, consisting of Professor Brendan Gough and Dr Gabriel Knott-Fayle of Leeds Beckett University, UK, and Dr Michael Kehler of University of Calgary, Canada, are interested to gain an insight into the participants’ motivations for contributing to the Worldwide Roar, their experiences of taking part, their perspectives on the issues the project seeks to tackle, and what impact contributing to the project has on them personally.

Dr Knott-Fayle, who is working full time on the study, says: “Worldwide Roar brings to the fore topics that are often overlooked or considered off limits in heteronormative spaces like sport. This study provides an opportunity to investigate these topics through interviews and focus group discussions with WR participants.

“As a research team, we have a shared interest in contemporary masculinities, so in particular an understanding will be sought regarding what part masculinities play in the men’s experiences, especially regarding the nudity involved in the project and the reception of the finished product by fans and followers.”

For more information and to order the new 2022 calendar, visit the Worldwide Roar website.

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Jon Holmes

Digital Sports Editor