Playing for Pride
With June being Pride month we want to do our bit in raising awareness and encourage conversations to support inclusivity. This week we bring you an interview with our Accounts Assistant, Darrell Butler, who plays for one of the UK’s first LGBTQ+ cricket teams and has an insight in the challenges and opportunities that playing sport can have for our Pride community and other minorities.
Hi Darrell, please tell us a little bit about yourself
Sure – I’m Darrell Butler, 36 and from Worcester, and I work in the accounts team at Speller Metcalfe.
I’m into a lot of sports – mainly darts and football – although I’m sorry to say my team (Coventry City) just missed out on promotion to the premier league this weekend! I did get to Wembley to support them with a colleague, Chalky, but it wasn’t to be.
I have also always been an avid follower of cricket but only took up the sport myself two years ago.
We’re here to talk about and celebrate Pride month, can you give us a little bit of insight into what this means to you?
The most important thing for me about Pride is visibility. By being visible to minority communities – whether that’s through sports, at the workplace, in the pub or simply wearing a flag on your shirt – it gives confidence to others and lets them know that you’re there and support them.
For me I have found that being openly gay and visible in sport has had a significant impact on my fellow teammates, and this has been such a positive outcome for me personally.
You now play for an LGBTQ+ cricket team, how did that happen?
During lockdown, I had a bit of time to kill and decided to embark on a journalism course. With my passion for sports, it led me down a path of raising the profile of grassroot clubs, with my first interview undertaken with a Sikh football team in Birmingham.
I then secured an interview with the Birmingham Unicorns – the UK’s second LGBTQ+ cricket club and was due to interview the Chair but the game got rained off, and instead I was invited to a training session the following week. I joined in and realised that there were a number of beginners there, and that I fit in with the level of the team, so when they were short for their next game I filled in and the two years later I’m still playing with them!
What challenge, if any, did you have in joining a team?
I’ve always played football and darts with groups of friends, whether having a knock about at the park or meeting at the pub, but cricket is a lot harder to access.
Joining an adult team as a beginner can be difficult and even intimidating when there’s 40+ people who have been playing together for years. As I never played as a child, I just didn’t have the confidence to turn up to a club and finding an adult beginner’s cricket team is not all that easy.
What is the most important thing to you about playing for an inclusive and representative team?
I genuinely think sport, simply by itself, can change someone’s life for the better – being part of a team and surrounded by people with a common interest and who support each other is an incredible feeling. But there are many people, particularly from minority groups or those who have little experience, who do not have the confidence or feel uncomfortable with the idea of joining a sports team.
By creating safe place for those people, we open up sports to a whole wealth of individuals that can benefit from those positives that playing in a team can bring. I run a Worcester darts league and since coming out myself, we have had around 6 or 7 others come out that may not have done so if they hadn’t seen other LGBTQ+ members reflected in the league.
Do you feel like that sports clubs are beating the drum of inclusivity?
I do think change is happening, and it is slow, but I also recognise you can’t expect instant results overnight. A lot of clubs we play against proactively ask us what they can do to improve how they advertise to new members and behave as a club to ensure they are being as inclusive as possible, which has been great to see and be a part of.
What are the challenges that you have seen in sport?
I think people who join sports teams often enjoy and expect a bit banter – it’s part of what brings a team together. Sometimes that banter can overstep the mark, whether it’s about an LGBTQ+ player, someone’s new haircut or being bowled out by a woman, it does happen.
However, my overall experience is that people are no longer afraid to challenge those kinds of comments and rather than someone responding with, “I didn’t mean it, get a grip,” actually it’s more often than not an apology and the understanding that what they said wasn’t ok. Generally, your team has your back and while the idea of banter definitely shouldn’t be banned, people need to realise when you’re around a new person or group of people and you don’t know their boundaries, you must be respectful.
I would like to mention that any club with a U18 teams (or below) is required to have a safeguarding officer, and if you feel discriminated against or need support then please talk to them.
If you had a recommendation for improving inclusivity in sport, what would it be?
For me inclusivity is the whole spectrum – it’s being inclusive to beginners as well as to minority groups and making sure everyone has a platform to access sport.
Not a lot of clubs do open days for beginners, particularly adults, and actually from my own experience this is exactly what they should be doing. If they host regular open days, they could even target specific community groups such as beginners, women, LGBTQ+ etc., as a way of opening the door for those people. Another idea may be an event like a Family Fun Day which includes a Pride aspect.
If clubs are unsure how to go about this, please don’t be afraid to ask. The best thing you can do is to open yourselves up to everyone and who knows, you may even discover the next big talent!
What confidence can you give to someone from the LGBTQ+ community, minority group or a beginner who would like to join a club?
Don’t be afraid! Once you get into a club, your teammates and club members become your sports family, they are welcoming and they will be loyal to you and should you come up against any challenges, they will be with you all the way.
Accessing sport is so important, and in fact we’ve had a lot of heterosexual guys who have come to join the Unicorns because it’s aimed at beginners – they represent nearly 50% of the club because they see it as a place they can start from scratch with others of the same ability, and it’s the icing on the cake that they also want to support us in flying the flag for inclusivity.
With your sporting experience, what would you say to a business who wants to become more inclusive for their staff and wider workforce?
I go back to the sentiment of visibility; don’t just stick a rainbow behind your logo and expect great things, the sentiment is there but it lacks meaning. Instead engage with your workforce, start conversations, even consider having a group in the business that actively promotes diversity.
At Speller Metcalfe we launched our own Equality, Diversity and Inclusivity (EDI) Group at the start of last year, and together we are supporting conversations and inclusivity by raising the profile of EDI issues and educating our teams about how to find and access support, and how to be supportive to their colleagues, which has recently included awareness of Ramadan and the menopause.