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Sports bodies must step up on inclusivity, says gay GAA referee


Gay GAA referee David Gough. Credit: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Gay GAA referee David Gough. Credit: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Gay GAA referee David Gough. Credit: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

The first openly gay GAA referee has said it is long past time that sporting organisations accepted responsibility for advancing LGBTQ inclusivity.

The comments from David Gough come after the Belfast Telegraph revealed that NI’s first openly gay football referee, Ryan Hanna, was subjected to “vile” homophobic abuse.

When Mr Hanna sought support from the IFA, the Co Antrim man claimed that he was told to “raise his tolerance level” because other referees don’t react to being called “fatty” or “baldy”.

The Irish FA said it is against all forms of discrimination. A spokesperson stated: “Although allegations of homophobic abuse are extremely rare, there is a commitment from the refereeing department to deliver equality and diversity training to all referees, likely to take place in 2022.”

Mr Gough remains the only “openly gay” referee in the GAA but made it clear that he is not the only gay match official or player in the association.

He said: “That has been the disappointing thing for me I suppose since coming out in 2015 that nobody has found the courage to come out since even though I’ve gone on to referee All-Ireland finals and become one of the most high-profile match officials within the GAA, successfully representing the GAA and LGBT community with no issue whatsoever.”

While he briefly experienced homophobic abuse walking off the field in 2015, Mr Gough said he has not faced anything similar since.

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Mr Gough expressed disappointment that the Pride flag is yet to be flown over Croke Park – the home of Gaelic games – adding that he believes the GAA will ultimately regret not making the gesture sooner.

However, he did acknowledge that the association supported participation in Pride events and a rainbow laces campaign, now has a full-time diversity and inclusion officer and sanctioned the first ever GAA club, Na Gaeil Aeracha, which is based in Dublin.

Progress has been made, he said, but only because he’s been “kicking down the door every now and again” and those advancements wouldn’t be made by the association on its own. “We’ve come on leaps and bounds from where we were in 2015, we’re still not where we want to be but are getting there.

“I would still like to see a rainbow flag being flown in Croke Park, particularly because it is such an iconic national stadium,” he added. “Others like the Aviva were lit up in LGBT colours, we see the GPO flying a rainbow flag, we see Dublin Bus with a rainbow bus.

“If the GAA would do something like that to celebrate Pride weekend, it would show its desire for inclusivity.”

Speaking about the necessity for sporting organisations, including football and GAA, to take the initiative, he said: “Some associations need to step up to the mark and take this on themselves and make progress in those areas.

“They shouldn’t have to wait until there is visible representation of that in their association and that person is looking for change. They should be proactive rather than reactive in that regard.

“There is an irrational fear from players who don’t want to come out, but when they get over it they will do it in their own time I suppose.”

The GAA was contacted for comment.

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