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Cardiff Dragons: Supporting the LGBTQ+ community in sport

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In a society where inclusion and acceptance are essential values, the Cardiff Dragons Football Club have emerged as a shining example of a sports club that goes above and beyond to support the LGBTQ+ community. Founded in May 2008, the club has worked tirelessly to provide opportunities for LGBTQ+ individuals to participate in sport and create a welcoming environment where they feel comfortable being themselves. 

To mark Pride Month, here’s a closer look at the club’s journey, the people involved, and their dedicated to equality and inclusion.

From Sharks to Dragons

The Cardiff Dragons came into existence when a departing Birmingham Blaze player reached out to the South Wales Gay Football Supporters Network (GFSN) representative enquiring about a team for the 2008 GFSN Annual get-together in Liverpool. With no plans in place, he took it upon himself to form a team. Initially known as the Cardiff Sharks, five players from Wales united to represent their country at a national level. Impressed by the experience and success they achieved, the players decided to form a club. In the process, they transitioned from the name ‘Sharks’ to the more Welsh-centric title of ‘Dragons’. Through clever advertising on websites and social media, the club swiftly attracted a diverse range of players, and their first public appearance was at the Cardiff Mardi Gras in 2008, which garnered significant interest and expanded their membership.

Cardiff Dragons Awards

What’s different about the Cardiff Dragons?

Since those early days, the Cardiff Dragons have grown from strength to strength, offering a wide range of football opportunities and cultivating a diverse membership base. The club’s core values of equality and inclusion remain at the heart of everything they do. 

The Cardiff Dragons Chairperson, Charlotte Galloway said: “It’s not just about winning games for us Dragons; our focus extends far beyond the realm of football. For us, it's about mwy na phêl-droed and we prioritise community and support, fostering an environment where competitive expectations of each other are replaced with camaraderie and welfare. Our club provides mental health support off the pitch, organise social events that are inclusive and mindful of not being centered around alcohol, and maintain a committee that strives to serve and support all members. Continual learning from experiences is a key aspect of our club’s ethos.”

Creating a safe and welcoming space for all members is of utmost importance to the Cardiff Dragons and they achieve this by employing various guiding principles. Training sessions begin with introductions, where everyone shares their name and pronouns. This practise not only helps avoiding confusion over gender, but also acknowledges that some individuals identify beyond the traditional binary spectrum. It provides a safe space for individuals to explore the identity and presentation, allowing them to find what feels right for them. 

Charlotte added: “We encourage open dialogue and understanding, even prompting allies to reach out after sessions to learn more about gender, labels and identities. The Dragons actively contribute to progressive and inclusive communities by fostering visibility and empowering allies.”

“Inclusive language plays a crucial role within the club. Words like ‘all’, ‘everyone’, ‘team’ or simply ‘Dragons’ are used ensuring that every member feels included and valued. Additionally, our club respects and acknowledges religious observances, sending good wishes and being mindful of festive periods such as Christmas and Ramadan.”

The Cardiff Dragons are also attentive to the needs of neurodiverse individuals and those with different learning requirements. When coaching, they accommodate diverse learning styles and refrain from pressuring individuals to confirm to specific methods, recognising that everyone engages differently. 

To ensure individual accountability and to uphold a respectful environment, new members sign a membership form and agree to a code of conduct that emphasises inclusivity and respect for all, regardless of identity. This approach promotes a sense of responsibility among members and helps maintain the club’s inclusive atmosphere.

Jason Webber, Senior Equality, Diversity, Inclusion and Integrity Manager at Football Association of Wales, said: “We are proud to work closely with the Cardiff Dragons who play a key role in providing opportunities for LGBTQ+ individuals to participate in football within a safe environment. We believe that football is for everyone and it's our mission to ensure that the game at all levels across Wales is an environment where everyone has the opportunity to take part, be included and be their true authentic selves. We look forward to continuing our support for the Dragons along with other LGBTQ+ Clubs in the future.”

What is coming up for the Cardiff Dragons?

Charlotte replied: “We're looking at setting up a community team as our numbers grow. If they keep growing at the rate they are now, I can see us having multiple 11-a-side and 7-a-side teams this time next year (currently we have one of each and those players play in a 5-a-side league). It's a bit of a headache when you think about all the constraints and possibilities – but it’s definitely a nice headache to have!”

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