A former rugby player from Lincoln is leading the way for LGBTQi+ sports with his diverse and inclusive rugby team in Lincoln.
Blake Coghill, 35, who previously played for Derby and the Saracens Third team, runs the Lincolnshire Lancers who started just five weeks ago, and they are looking for new participants.
Blake told The Lincolnite: “When I moved to Lincoln I was looking for a way to make friends and socialise and get back to playing.
“I think Covid has been unkind to everyone and people have put on a bit of weight – I certainly didn’t move as much as I probably should.
“This is a home, it’s a community builder.”
The team trains every Thursday at 7pm at Sudbrooke Playing Field in Newport, Lincoln.
Last week 18 attended, and Blake, who coaches, is excited by the numbers but said that the team is looking for any new players and volunteers who wish to coach.
Blake said how he wanted to set up something for people that aren’t represented well enough in the region, and learned of International Gay Rugby where he found out about the inclusive side of the sport.
The Lancers are not just for gay people, as Blake explained: “It is just about inclusion and making sure that people who previously couldn’t go, or who had bad experiences at school and didn’t feel safe going to a traditional rugby club, could come and play and enjoy themselves.
“It’s open to anyone. Any gender, sexuality, race or religion. No matter what you can be assured that you’re going to have a safe place and that you’re going to be welcomed with us.”
“That’s a lot of what I hear from our members.”
Blake had previously been involved with the LGBT community with his work, where he worked as a trans awareness educator.
As the team, one of 30 to 40 IGR teams in the UK, moves towards playing games, they will have to follow the Rugby Football Union’s (RFU) participation policy that bans those assigned female at birth from playing in men’s full contact games.
This is something the team is not happy with and they shared their views in a protest at the recent Lincoln Pride and in letters to the RFU.
However, all genders are still able to train together at the Lancers.
The first season will be a Development League, where they will play a game a month, but next season this will expand to one every two weeks.
To anyone thinking of joining the club, Blake said: “I think it can be quite scary to people when they think of rugby, and if they’ve never played before, or thinking about returning, how physical it is and how fit you need to be.
“But you don’t need that with us. We will build you up, we will give you the tools that you need and train you.
“Alongside that you’ll make a really good group of friends – in our small time that we’ve been going, it feels like a family that we’ve got already, where people will help each other out and look after each other.
“It’s building a stronger LGBT community in Lincoln and Lincolnshire where we know that there’s quite a weak presence.
“We just had an amazing Pride. But apart from that, once that’s done, there’s not much more LGBT people or people who want that level of inclusion and diversity.
“There’s nowhere to go for that. So this is another option for people as well.”
He hopes that in the future he can bring in wheelchair rugby, to expand the envelope of inclusivity.