It was yet another emphatic Betfred League One victory for Keighley Cougars over the weekend, but the club’s outstanding efforts off the pitch are what truly made it a memorable day.
The annual Cougar Pride festival celebrates LGBTQIA+ inclusivity, and has become a staple event in the Rugby League calendar thanks to the endeavours of co-owners Ryan O’Neill and Kaue Garcia, who remain the first openly gay owners of a sports club in Europe.
Speaking to Sky Sports, O’Neill said: “When Kaue and I had the opportunity to buy the club and deliver the investment to get it to where it is now, which is top of the league, it was a great opportunity for us to also spread the message of equality, inclusivity, diversity, and bring people together.”
Sunday’s event saw the Keighley team don their eye-catching Cougar Pride kit once again, that incorporates all colours and aspects of the LGBTQIA+ flag.
Fans also got the chance to take in the festival atmosphere with plenty of performing acts and new food and drinks stalls, all part of the Cougar Crawl.
Chair of the RFL, Simon Johnson, was in attendance: “I’m delighted to have been able to represent the RFL at yesterday’s Cougar Pride event. Keighley have created a fantastic initiative that promotes inclusivity and celebrates the LGBTQ+ community through the sport we all love.
“A huge thanks to all involved, you are a credit to Rugby League and have once again shown what this sport is all about. Roll on Cougar Pride ‘23!”
Rugby League has a five-year plan – TACKLEIT – to widen the game’s reach and appeal, diversify its talent pool, improve its culture and actively deal with discrimination. TACKLE IT continues Rugby League’s proud tradition as a powerful force for good in the game’s communities.
And this week it’s Newcastle Thunder’s turn to loudly and proudly promote Rugby League’s inclusion message, when they entertain Bradford Bulls at Kingston Park on Friday (8 July, 7.45pm).
Newcastle is the host city for UK Pride this year and Thunder are determined to make the most of the opportunity to demonstrate the club’s ongoing support for the LGBTQ+ community. The city hosts the Northern Pride festival from 22-24 July and Kingston Park will have a festival feel of its own when the Bulls come to town.
Tickets are available now via the Newcastle Thunder website. Super League Magic Weekend ticket holders, ‘uniformed services’ workers and Pride Festival ticket holders can purchase their tickets from just £5.
The match will be shown live on Premier Sports.