UK Athletics’ inclusion initiative welcomed across the sport, with new members from the LGBT+ community encouraged to email in…
By Jon Holmes
The Athletics Pride Network – launched by UK Athletics on Friday – is already being hailed across the sport as a hugely positive venture.
People involved in track and field, endurance running and other disciplines – as well as connected roles in officiating, coaching, administration and the media – are being encouraged to connect with the APN, particularly if they are LGBT+ or strong allies.
Javelin thrower turned Paralympic talent development coach Shelley Holroyd, who competed for Great Britain at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta as well as many other major international meets, is among the founding members.
“People will become more aware that they do have this outlet, and that they can talk to others out there that are gay, and are quite happy,” she tells Sports Media LGBT+.
Holroyd is keen to emphasise that the APN is welcoming to all in the sport who are lesbian, gay, bi and trans, and that every experience is valid and will be respected.
“There are ex-athletes who have been through traumatic times, and those who have been made stronger – there’s loads of stories out there we need to get hold of,” she says.
Andy Paul of Birchfield Harriers is another coach who is a founding member of the APN, and was a key figure in its creation. He has been impressed with the success of similar diversity initiatives within British Athletics and says an LGBT+ group is a great addition to that inclusion work.
“We have a women’s network, and the growth in female coaches has been exponential because of it,” he says. “Our Paralympic pathway is as strong as any in the world, and there’s been significant work around BAME inclusion in coaching as well.
“But we’ve never tackled this area before. I thought, look at all the positives that have come out of the other areas – this surely can do exactly the same for LGBT+ people.”
Below, watch ‘Out of the Closet and Onto The Track’, a superb short film released in December 2017 which focuses on Andy and his experiences in athletics. Film directed and edited by Kee Ramsorrun; music by Thomas Bell.
‘LGBT+ coaches welcome new Athletic Pride Network’ – read the full feature interview with Shelley and Andy on SkySports.com
Team GB race walker Tom Bosworth, who came out publicly in October 2015 and went on to finish sixth at the Rio Olympics the following year, was thrilled to see the network launch.
Corinne Humphreys is another out international athlete and like Tom, she is a Stonewall Sport Champion as well as an APN founding member. In a tweet, she alluded to the impact such a network might have had on her if it had been in place when she was growing up.
Donna Fraser, the equality, inclusion and diversity lead at UK Athletics, believes the APN has great potential to be a unifying force that can help bring about tangible change.
“I’m so proud that we’ve been able to engage with so many keen and motivated individuals across the sport to create this network for LGBT+ people,” she said.
“The network is in its infancy, but we’re excited at its possibilities and reaching out to the LGBT+ community and continuing to showcase athletics as a sport for all, whatever your sexuality.
We as an organisation are committed to the creation and enhancement of an inclusive culture.Donna Fraser
“I’m delighted that we have so many people from within the sport who are driving this forward and asking us to provide support to get this network up and running.”
Hurdler Thomas Miller believes the network can make a big impact…
Stonewall’s director of sport Robbie de Santos emphasised the significance of the APN beginning life during the coronavirus outbreak, when many people are separated physically from friends and family, and sports organisations and governing bodies are trying to keep their staff and athletes feeling connected.
You can make contact with the Athletics Pride Network by emailing email@example.com.
Good luck to all involved in the APN from us here at Sports Media LGBT+ – we look forward to supporting the network in any way we can.