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Pride House Birmingham hopes for 'impactful visibility' at Commonwealth Games as CGF launches new network group

Commonwealth Games Federation launches new Commonwealth Sport Pride Network on Rainbow Laces Day; mission includes pledge to "support Pride House at the Games"; Pride House Birmingham organisers hoping their venue space and related programmes are funded and integrated at 2022 Games

Pride House Birmingham
Image: The Pride House Birmingham team had a major role in the parade at Birmingham Pride in September

The organisers of Pride House Birmingham - a venue at next summer's Commonwealth Games dedicated to LGBTQ+ inclusion in sport - have welcomed the launch of a new Pride network, backed by the CGF.

Announcing the voluntary group on Rainbow Laces Day, the Commonwealth Games Federation hopes it will help "to champion and enable LGBTQ+ inclusion at the Games and across our Movement", according to CGF president, Dame Louise Martin.

Community building is a key objective of the Commonwealth Sport Pride Network (CSPN), and paramount within that is the protection and security of LGBTQ+ athletes and coaches from across the 54 member states of the Commonwealth of Nations.

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - AUGUST 13: Common Wealth Games President Dame Louise Martin during the Commonwealth Games new sport announcement at Edgbaston on August 13, 2019 in Birmingham, England. (Photo by Barrington Coombs/Getty Images for Commonwealth Games Federation)
Image: Dame Louise Martin, the President of the CGF, says the new Pride Network is 'an opportunity to champion inclusion and tell stories in a positive way'

In 35 of those countries, same-sex relationships are still criminalised, in large part due to laws imposed during British colonial rule that remain on the statute books to this day.

Olympic gold medal-winning diver Tom Daley, who spoke movingly of his career journey as an out gay athlete after his success in Tokyo in August, has been an increasingly influential voice on the topic of improved LGBTQ+ and human rights in the Commonwealth.

The CSPN's mission statement also includes a commitment to "support Pride House at the Games", and Lou Englefield - the co-chair of Pride House International and part of the team leading on the Birmingham project - says the group's launch sends a welcoming message to athletes.

Commonwealth Sport Pride Network
Image: The Commonwealth Sport Pride Network has four key areas of focus - community, education, visibility and influence

"It's telling them they are acknowledged and valued, and that there is one place - should they want it - where they are able to be themselves, within this network," she told Sky Sports.

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"Importantly, we are also working towards having a venue for LGBTIQ+ people and allies in Birmingham itself around the Games, a space where people can come and be themselves.

"Those people might be athletes, or they might be spectators, officials, administrators, or volunteers. We want them to know that when they come to Birmingham, Pride House is somewhere that's there for them.

"It's about centering their experience and their relationship with performance sport. One of the pillars of our project is celebration, so let's celebrate their participation."

Pride House Birmingham
Image: Lou Englefield (far left) with Pride House Birmingham's Neil Basterfield, athletes Lauren Rowles and Jude Hamer, fellow organiser Piero Zizzi, and the Athletics Pride Network's Andy Paul

Pride House Birmingham was formally launched back in January 2021 and planning continues ahead of next year's Commonwealth Games, which will be held from July 28 to August 8.

Since the inaugural space was set up as a temporary location at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, there have been several more established at major sporting events through the Pride House movement, including the last two editions of the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast and Glasgow.

As they continue to explore funding options for Birmingham, Englefield and her co-organisers Piero Zizzi and Neil Basterfield are eager to highlight the potential for this particular iteration of Pride House.

"We've been working hard for the last year with the Birmingham 2022 organising committee to find some real touchpoints and potentially to have some impactful visibility around the time of the Games," explained Englefield.

"If we're able to achieve that, it will be massive for the whole movement. Even at London 2012, while Pride House was acknowledged from a community perspective by the organising committee (LOCOG), it wasn't a fully integrated piece of those Games.

"We're hoping that our current negotiations move forward in a positive way so that we might be able to offer a more integrated Pride House.

"That would mean athletes are made aware of the venue when they travel to the Games, and have it signposted in a more direct way so that people understand we have the support of both the CGF and the local organising committee."

'Athletes' stories are powerful'

Daley memorably spoke out to advocate for greater LGBTQ+ inclusion internationally after claiming gold at the 2018 Games in Gold Coast, calling for governments to push harder for change.

Tom Daley
Image: Tom Daley has carried his athlete activism through from the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast to the Tokyo Olympics, where he claimed gold alongside Matty Lee in the 10m men's synchro diving

In recent weeks, the 27-year-old has stated his belief that nations which continue to carry the death penalty for homosexuality should be banned from international sports competitions. Some parts of the Commonwealth, such as Brunei and northern states of Nigeria, adhere to Sharia law; meanwhile, imprisonment is the punishment in 10 other Commonwealth countries, with the parliament of Ghana currently debating even stricter anti-LGBTQ+ legislation.

Englefield is grateful to Daley and other athletes such as Pride House Birmingham ambassador Michael Gunning, who has represented Jamaica in swimming, for using their platforms to raise awareness of these global challenges and ensure sport is part of the conversation in a constructive way.

"Sport and human rights are inextricably linked, from issues around people's right to participate, to compete, and to be themselves in those environments," added Englefield.

"We're really interested in the relationship between sport, human rights, and the Commonwealth. Those are three key areas that we want to look at from the new year both in our education programming and in our celebration programming.

"Ultimately at Pride House, we want to tell those stories through exhibitions, performances, panel discussions, debates, podcasts, webinars, from January into Games time."

Nigel Huddleston MP, the Minister for Sport, Tourism and the Commonwealth Games, says the CSPN's capacity to "promote inclusion, education and equality" could prove to be of enormous benefit for athletes who are LGBTQ+ and who live in countries where visibility would put them at risk.

Nigel Huddleston, MP for Mid Worcestershire and Minister for Sport and Tourism addresses hospitality delegates and business leaders at Birmingham Airport, outlining the West Midlands Tourism Sectors plans to support the recovery of the industry following the coronavirus pandemic, at the start of the Queen's Baton Relay ahead of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games. Picture date: Friday October 8, 2021.
Image: Nigel Huddleston MP hopes the CSPN helps 'to strengthen our shared Commonwealth goals of democracy, development and peace'

Mindful of this, Englefield says it is essential for Pride House Birmingham to present a combination of different narratives.

"Right from the start, we were keen to recruit ambassadors because we know that athletes' stories are hugely powerful, not just for other athletes and those on performance pathways but also for young people in the community.

"But there are other stories we want to tell as well - the stories of LGBTIQ+ people and human rights defenders across the Commonwealth. This is a chance to shine a light on some of the amazing work that's happening in their communities around the world.

"We have to look at the fact that many of the laws in Commonwealth countries are a result of British colonialism. People here are becoming more aware of that situation.

"Crucially, it's not about people from the UK like me imposing our narrative. It's about how we can amplify the voices of LGBTIQ+ people throughout the Commonwealth through a Pride House.

"Important conversations took place at the Gold Coast and Glasgow venues and we need to continue them as a legacy of those Games."

Among the groups supporting the new CSPN are the Athletics Pride Network, backed by British Athletics, and Pride in Water, which has the support of British Swimming.

The CSPN is open to all and those interested in joining are invited to register now at

Rainbow Laces 2021 logo graphic

Sky Sports is a member of TeamPride which supports Stonewall's Rainbow Laces campaign, currently receiving its annual activation from November 25 to December 12. Wednesday, December 8, is Rainbow Laces Day.

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