The UK’s first ever LGBTQ+ cricket tournament has been hailed a success after teams from across the country gathered in Birmingham – and sent out a powerful sporting inclusion message.
Sides representing five professional clubs – Warwickshire, Worcestershire, Gloucestershire, Middlesex and Northamptonshire – competed in the event at Sutton Coldfield CC on Sunday (11 June).
Around 200 spectators contributed to a festival feel and saw Middlesex lift the inaugural trophy as they progressed through the round-robin format undefeated.
A late downpour brought a premature end to the event – washing out the final round of games – and at one stage the West Midlands Air Ambulance stopped play as it landed on the outfield to collect paramedics from good Hope Hospital!
But nothing could detract from the success of the event that was organised by Warwickshire Cricket in conjunction with Birmingham Unicorns, one of only two LGBTQ+ cricket clubs in the country.
Unicorns Chair Lachlan Smith, said: “This is a big achievement: a great crowd turned up, there was some good quality cricket on show, and it demonstrates there is a big appetite in the LGBTQ+ community to play and support cricket.
“Warwickshire came up with the idea, it’s been hard work pulling it together, but so worthwhile. We’re highlighting that cricket is a game for all. We want to encourage more LGBTQ+ people to come and watch, umpire, score and play.
“If we’ve opened just a few eyes in the LGBTQ+ community that cricket is a sport for them then it’s been a success.
“Cricket has its challenges, some are well documented, but LGBTQ+ inclusion has come on leaps and bounds in the last few years. The direction of travel is very positive.”
Women’s ICC umpire Sue Redfern took charge of one game having hot-footed from New Road where she’d officiated the Charlotte Edwards Cup final.
She added: “It was important for me to be here today, it’s another milestone in LGBTQ+ sport and cricket’s journey to becoming inclusive for all.
“LGBTQ+ people may have thought cricket isn’t for them because they don’t see it, they don’t see participation in the Network. That’s why this is fabulous for the game, the visibility it brings and that will encourage others to get involved.
“There is still work to do, no doubt, but by doing this it sends a message that we won’t tolerate non-inclusive behaviour. It’s been a long time coming but we’re here and we can build on this.”
And Warwickshire CCC’s High Performance Manager Paul Greetham – the newly appointed Vice Chair of the ECB’s LGBTQ+ Committee, added: “It’s great to see so many people here from the LGBTQ+ community involved, playing a sport they love and being their authentic selves. This is my home club, I’ve played here for 20 years, so this is a proud moment for me.
“This is a community that’s felt under-represented in sport. But Warwickshire and Sutton Coldfield Cricket Club have thrown open their arms, saying it doesn’t matter who you are, how you identify, what your background is, who you hold hands with on the boundary rope, this is a sport for you.”