“I want every LGBTQ+ person to find their sports family”: Why the new Rally app is for everyone

Published by Jon Holmes on

When Duncan Campbell found himself looking for more ways to connect with the wider LGBTQ+ community through sport, he hit upon the idea of a new kind of social network. With the stylish and intuitive Rally app now launched, he tells Sports Media LGBT+ why it’s all about bringing people together…

By Jon Holmes

The Rally app is racking up new users and clubs since its launch in February

“Go play!” It’s a simple welcome message that greets users on the new Rally app – but it’s also a call to action.

Built by and for the LGBTQ+ community, this is a sports space and social network that has the capacity to unite teams worldwide. Meanwhile, it’s also catering to anyone who isn’t necessarily chasing that club life…

Rally’s goal is to amplify the work of queer sports teams, businesses and individuals within their local area and connect them to the wider community, with an ethos to foster healthy environments for all.

Through this new platform, anybody in the LGBTQIA+ community can find new friends, discover local events, and join local sports teams.

The creator and founder of Rally is developer Duncan Campbell, a Londoner who’s lived for the last 12 years in Barcelona, where he runs an app agency.

Sports Media LGBT+ caught up with Duncan for a chat to learn all about Rally…

JH: Hi Duncan, congratulations on the launch of the new app! It’s got a slick look and I can see several clubs near me in London are already on. Tell us about why you’ve created Rally?

DC: Thanks! I really believe that sport has the most amazing benefits for anyone, but especially for members of the LGBTQ+ community. Yet I feel like a lot of LGBTQ+ people don’t know that there’s such a vibrant, vast array of sports teams out there.

These are spaces where you can meet up regularly, make friends, hang out, build community – in short, just have the best time together. I want to make sure that everyone knows these teams exist, and that they have a family out there that’s just waiting for them, outside of the social nightlife scene. This is an app that’s completely different and wholesome. Consequently, it has a lot to offer.

So it combines those two elements of social and sports for an individual – what does it do for the teams?

Through the app, there’s an opportunity to unite all these different clubs and organisations – to pull all the teams together. Once we’ve done that, we can help leagues to link up, and the umbrella groups, so that everything is there that’s going on related to sport – from high-level elite athletes connecting right the way down to mates just going out and having a walk in the park. We hope to create a space where you know you can go there and find something that’s right for you in LGBTQ+ sports.

It’s a great vision and the potential is clearly huge. So how do you get these people on board?

Once we’ve got all of us in the same space, that’s when the magic is going to happen! Right now, all of these teams are managing themselves in slightly different ways – some have got WhatsApp groups, which can be tough to organise; some have got other platforms that provide social elements, and some don’t; some might still be on Facebook groups but half the members aren’t on Facebook.

What we’re offering is a place for teams and their members that makes them more visible. That means, for example, that a smaller sports club that’s running its own private Facebook group suddenly has not only a local visibility, but also regional, national, global… that’s the goal.

What was your journey towards creating Rally?

I’m pretty sporty – I do a lot of hiking, climbing, mountain biking, and trail running. I’d keep seeing that there are sports groups around me in Barcelona but they never seemed to fit with what I’m doing. I always wanted a place where I could just say, ‘hey guys, who wants to go on a hike? How about we hike up a mountain in the Pyrenees this weekend?’

Just after the pandemic began to ease, I realised that I’ve got a window in my career that means I can dedicate some time to making an app to do this. I’ve also built up enough life experience that I know what I’m talking about! I had this renewed love for my LGBTQ+ community and I wanted to do something for us by way of celebration – we deserve it, frankly, and an app like this has much more value to a marginalised community.

Everything fell into place, so I said ‘let’s do this!’ That was 18 months ago and I’ve been working day and night, every weekend, every second that I can, to build this. Now I want to see where Rally can take us.

In the UK, we’ve got several LGBTQ+ umbrella groups operating for different sports or on a regional level. What’s your message to them?

What I’m looking to build is a social network – a place where an individual can connect with other individuals or with teams; and where teams can recruit new people. I’m not looking to replace the work that anyone else is doing. Those umbrella groups and also organisations like Pride Sports are all doing tons of great work in helping teams with how to set themselves up, organise themselves, and communicate with members. I’m keen to see how we can work together and support each other.

I also hope to get some charities onto the app, for different causes – I’ve been talking to some already. I want Rally to be something that’s resourceful and useful but fundamentally, it’s a social tool.

In particular, it sounds like it will help for multi-sports events like EuroGames (being held in Nijmegen in late July) and next year’s Gay Games, for example…

Yes, absolutely. I met recently with someone from the Gay Games, and we were talking about how we can make this happen – we both have a few ideas! I want people to be educated about what’s out there, to learn if they can go and participate, with their team or as an individual, what’s going to happen when they get there, and how they can connect.

We’re a media organisation, trying to share stories on our platform and encourage more of the same in the mainstream media too. Is that in Rally’s remit?

The big plan is to have stories about our users within the app – not just athletes, but also people who set up their own clubs, people who are personal trainers, and those in other roles. It’d be great to have a mix of people, some at that elite level but also some who are perhaps a little more relatable at grassroots, and who you can build a connection with.

Are you able to tell us a little about the funding model?

The first objective is to encourage people to download the app – every social network needs users. But I don’t want the LGBTQ+ community to pay for this, and that’s very important to me. I don’t think that’s how we build community.

Some have subscription models like Strava where you pay monthly and you get perks. Maybe there’s a model we can use which is advertising – there are a couple of placeholder ads for brands in the app, to show what it would look like.

In any case, if there is money coming in, it’s coming from brand sponsors who want to help us. Within that, I’m really aware of pinkwashing and that’s not something that’s going to happen here. When there are sponsors, we’ll have talked about what their role is and how they’re going to help the LGBTQ+ community. There are ways that this platform can be useful and make money – any investors would be interested in that.

What has the early response been like from clubs?

I’ve reached out to a bunch! Take Knockout for example, London’s LGBTQ+ boxing club – they’ve created their profile. When I get in touch, I say clearly that all I want to do is bring people together.

The aim is for everyone in our community to know that they’ve got somewhere they can go where they’ve got family – Rally isn’t based on anything other than just love and respect.

Knockout said to me: “Building healthy friendships between all members of our community, away from the nightlife scene, is what we are trying to do too”. That really resonates with me, when someone validates what I’m trying to do. There are so many people along the way who have been really supportive and have helped to frame what I’m doing in a way that makes me want to keep doing it.

What’s fascinating is that the app has a pretty global reach already. We have people in Australia, Mexico, a bunch of teams in the States… I was talking with International Frontrunners and they would like all their clubs to be on. I feel it’s going in the right direction.

Rally is available to download now for iPhone from the App Store. For more information, visit Rally.lgbt.

Good luck to Duncan! You can contact him at duncan@rally.lgbt

Sports Media LGBT+ is a network, advocacy, and consultancy group that is helping to build a community of LGBTQ+ people and allies in sport. We’re also a digital publisher. Learn more about us here.

We’re interested in your news and stories! Share with us and tap into a worldwide audience through our Google News affiliate website – which pulled in over one million impressions in 2021 – and our popular social channels with over 10,000 followers. Contact us to discuss how we can help you.

Jon Holmes

Digital Sports Editor