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Harlequins make history with professional rugby union's first Pride Game

Gallagher Premiership club celebrates LGBT+ inclusion in match vs London Irish; "A really significant day," says Premiership Rugby referee Craig Maxwell-Keys

Harlequins vs London Irish smoke flares, Twickenham Stoop, Gallagher Premiership, Pride Game, 15 February 2020
Image: Rainbow smoke flares were released before kick-off at the Twickenham Stoop on Saturday

Harlequins made history on Saturday by hosting professional rugby union's first Pride Game to celebrate LGBT+ inclusivity in the sport.

A range of activities in and around Quins' Gallagher Premiership fixture against London Irish at the Twickenham Stoop put the focus on conversations about how to make lesbian, gay, bi and trans people feel welcome in rugby.

In the days building up to the game, the west London club shared stories on their media channels from Harlequins Women and Scotland player Jade Konkel, former men's player Simon Miall, the LGBT-inclusive rugby club Kings Cross Steelers, and supporter Abigail Barletta.

There was also new research released in conjunction with Monash University in Australia showing the prevalence of homophobic language in the sport and the damaging effect it has.

Before kick-off at the stadium, Miall and Steelers founder Lord Robert Hayward joined a panel discussion exploring rugby and LGBT+ inclusion hosted by commentator Nick Heath, alongside Premiership Rugby referee Craig Maxwell-Keys, Quins Women's Zoe Saynor and Sport England's Senior Diversity and Equality Manager, Jamie Hooper.

Amid stormy conditions, the match itself was preceded by a Pride guard of honour featuring amateur players from the Steelers, South London Stags, Berkshire Unicorns and other clubs in the International Gay Rugby movement.

Rainbow hoardings at Harlequins Pride Game, vs London Irish, Twickenham Stoop, Gallagher Premiership, 15 February 2020
Image: The hoardings at the Stoop were also decked out in rainbow colours

Speaking to Premiership Rugby, Maxwell-Keys said: "It's a really significant day, and great that Harlequins are taking the initiative to promote inclusivity.

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"Hopefully many conversations will start today in the stands and among people watching at home. For rugby and its values, inclusivity is a massive part of them.

"We want more people to come into the sport, whether it's from the LGBT community or any other dynamic of society. Sport or any boardroom is better for the diversity of people on there - it brings better conversations, better challenges, and better decisions."

On the pitch, Quins were beaten 29-15 as Curtis Rona crossed for a double for the visitors.

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