Pride Night in Cardiff.

“Sports are for everyone and so is ice hockey.”

It might’ve been a few weeks ago but we should never forget the important message shared by the Cardiff Devils.

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Cardiff Devils v Belfast Giants. © Dave Williams

The Devils recently announced their partnership with LGBT Sport Cymru. Following the announcement, they marked a league game against the Belfast Giants, on the 26th of November to celebrate the partnership and to support Stonewalls Rainbow Laces week.

Last year the Devils started supporting the “You Can Play” project, promoting a safe and inclusive community for all athletes. The vision was/is to create a thriving sporting community across Wales, where LGBT individuals feel safe, welcome and free from discrimination.

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Cardiff Devils v Belfast Giants. Cardiff Devils player/coach Andrew Lord © Dave Williams

The Devils have been part of a huge national movement supporting the LGBT community in a variety of different sports, including football and rugby. The Devils wore special pride jersey’s, while Cardiff City used LGBT flags as corner flags, as well as the Captain wearing a colourful armband.

Welsh rugby referee, Nigel Owens tweeted a photo of his colourful boot laces before the game between England and Samoa on the 26th of November.

Because the amount of support shown across Wales, LGBT Sport Cymru and Stonewall Cymru are hoping to inspire other organisations and teams. I spoke to Zoe Thacker, the Secretary of LGBT Sport Cymru about the partnership with the Devils. This is what she had to say:

Q1) What does this partnership mean to you as an organisation?

Partnerships such as the one with the Cardiff Devils are so important to us. They help us to reach a far larger network of sports fans and enthusiasts who may not fully appreciate all the challenges faced in sport for minority groups.

Q2) Do you think this partnership will inspire other teams to make partnerships with organisations like yourself?

Yes, absolutely! A team as high profile as the Devils can only inspire others to get involved. We will now use this partnership as a good practice example for other teams/sports. Many of the top Premier League Football teams supported Rainbow Laces, but suffered a backlash of homophobic abuse online.

Q3) What more could be done to prevent inequality in sport?

Education is key. We are firstly a sporting network, but what we are trying to do is change culture. That’s a tough one, but we won’t give up. Positive messaging, role models and openness from the LGBT community can only help. We must continue to champion diversity and all the benefits it brings.

Q4) How important are partnerships like these in sport?

Huge. We are small volunteer network and all have day jobs outside of the group. To influence lasting change, we must partner up to help deliver and get this level of exposure.

To help promote the message, defenceman Andrew Hotham is taking on the role of Official Ambassador for the partnership. He’ll be working very closely with both LGBT Sport Cymru and Devils to promote the message further.

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Cardiff Devils v Belfast Giants. Cardiff Devils defender Andrew Hotham © Dave Williams

“The Cardiff Devils welcome anyone, player, fan, staff, it doesn’t matter, we’re inclusive of any person who wants to be here, and I’m hoping that others join in. I don’t there’s to many teams around that’ll exclude someone, but just to make people know they’re always welcome.”  – Andrew Hotham

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Cardiff Devils v Belfast Giants. PRIDE jersey auction © Dave Williams

During the marked game the Devils wore special pride jerseys to support the cause. These were auctioned off at the end of the game, which they lost against the Belfast Giants. Despite this, the message of the event was not forgotten.

The announcement of the partnership and the game itself raised a lot of awareness across social media. Both the Devils and LGBT Sport Cymru received nothing but support from fellow organisations and fans.

But there is still much more to be done. Despite the many supporting comments, there have been a few negative ones. This partnership and others across Wales hope to stop this.

Let’s help spread the message: ‘Make sport everyone’s game’.

Header image: Dave Williams

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