Pressure remains 'intense for gay athletes'
Gay people feel under pressure to conceal their sexuality in sporting environments, according to the Honorary Vice-President of the world's only gay cricket club.
Duncan Irvine, 67, founded Graces Club Cricket in 1996 at Central Station bar in King’s Cross, with the purpose of promoting the game amongst the gay and lesbian community.
Graces CC have since played over 250 matches and currently have approximately 40 members, but Mr Irvine believes gay people across the UK still find it difficult to be open about their sexuality in sporting situations.
“Even in 2015 it can be difficult for gay people in sport,” he said.
“I’m sure that all over the country players hide their sexuality and even invent girlfriends. Some people in companies feel that, even now, coming out may impede their prospects.
“Things have improved but you have to ask how many gay sportsmen and women have come out?
“It was great when Steven Davies (ex-England wicketkeeper) came out to a warm reception, but you have to remember it took all those years for a gay cricketer to come out.”
Graces was originally set up as a supporters’ group but it soon became apparent that they could field a competitive team.
They played their first game in 1997 against Wendover Cricket Club, who they beat by 6 wickets, and have since played around 25 games a season.
And Mr Irvine praised the “positive social spirit” that the club – which currently reside at the London Marathon Playing Field in Greenford, West London – has developed since being founded.
“Graces is about providing a community and a place where our members can be themselves and relax.
“Things are certainly moving forward. We’ve only encountered snide remarks from opposition teams on a few occasions in all the games we’ve played.
“But people still feel almost suicidal over the pressure they feel they are under and that’s a real shame.”
For more information about Graces Cricket Club visit www.gracescricket.org.uk.