AS an openly gay rugby player, Colin Arthur feels proud to play for such a “warm and welcoming” club as Musselburgh – but he knows there is still work to do throughout the sport in this country to make everyone feel comfortable and included.
Part of that work in recent years has involved support for the Rainbow Laces campaign, run by Stonewall. The campaign is already under way this year and runs until Sunday 12th, with Rainbow Laces Day itself being next Wednesday.
It aims to give greater visibility to LGBTQ+ people in sport, and this Saturday Arthur’s Musselburgh team and Edinburgh Accies will wear the laces in their boots to support the initiative when they meet in the Tennent’s Premiership at Raeburn Place. The 2nd XVs from the two clubs will also sport rainbow laces in their game.
“When we played Edinburgh Accies in the 2019-20 season our 1st and 2nd XVs wore the rainbow laces as the games fell around this time of year too,” tighthead prop Arthur explains. “It is great that Accies have agreed to wear them this time alongside us while we are hoping our 3rd XV [who take on Ross High on Saturday] will be able to wear the laces too. In recent times, myself and others at Musselburgh have really been working hard to make the club more inclusive than ever before.”
Now 31, Arthur started playing rugby at his local club Biggar when he was a youngster before moving into the senior ranks at Hartree Mill and then onto a spell with Melrose. He never told his team-mates at those two clubs that he was gay, but when he spent time playing with Preston Lodge he felt that the time was right to share his sexuality with others.
“Mark Steedman was the head coach at PL at the time and he knew that I was gay because we had a number of mutual friends, so when my team-mates found out there was no fuss at all and everyone was very supportive, which was great,” Arthur, who works at Edinburgh University, recounts.
“It was nice having that support and then I had a spell at Kelso where everyone knew too. I moved to Musselburgh five or so years ago now and nobody has batted an eyelid when it comes to me being gay.
“My partner, Andy Street, is the team manager for the 1st XV and we are very happy being part of things at Musselburgh. We feel like it is our home club and it really does feel like one big family.
“In terms of teams that I play against, some of the guys know I’m gay, some probably don’t, but there have been no negative things coming out of it on the pitch over the last few years.
“And last weekend after we played Selkirk it was good to chat to Luke Pettie, who I have played against for a number of years, talk to him about it and introduce him to Andy.”
’Burgh beat Selkirk 40-27 in that game to go sixth in the table, and they will be looking to complete the double over fourth-placed Accies this weekend after a 31-28 triumph at Stoneyhill back in September. Accies, smarting from a loss at Jed-Forest last time out, are a different beast at home, though, and if they can win this game they will get their name engraved on the Bill McLaren Shield for four home victories on the spin. Thereafter, they will have to defend the trophy on the road as well as at home.
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“We always have good battles against Accies and I expect this one to be no different,” Arthur said. “They will fancy themselves at home, but after a bit of a dodgy run we got ourselves back on track and played well in patches last weekend.
“Now we want to build on that and try and get a precious away win in the process, because this is an important part of the season.”
Arthur is proud of what has been achieved off the pitch at Musselburgh as well as on it, but believes that a lot more needs to be done before rugby as a whole is truly welcoming to everybody. “The club’s key words are ‘integrity’, ‘respect’ and ‘inclusion’, and we have been working with a number of different organisations in recent months such as LEAP Sports Scotland [who campaign for greater inclusion for LGBTQ+ people in sport and against homophobia, biphobia and transphobia in a sporting context] to put things in place to make everyone feel welcome down at Stoneyhill.
“We already have a lot of the things in place that would allow us to become an affiliate club with LEAP, but we are working on other things such as an equality and diversity statement and policy, and then that can come to fruition and we can build from there. The club badge has currently been changed to represent the rainbow colours and although that is a simple thing to do in practice, it is a big statement to make to say to the local community that Musselburgh RFC is a club for all.
“Things have been moving in the right direction in terms of this subject in rugby and more discussions are being had amongst team-mates and club members now than ever before, which is great. However, there is still a long way to go and this isn’t just about more gay men feeling ready to come out within the rugby environment: it is simply about everybody from all walks of life being allowed to be themselves – and feel included and safe – within the sport.
“After all, rugby is a game for everybody to enjoy.”
- Make your friends and team mates feel welcome within rugby – or any sport – by wearing rainbow laces. Visit stonewall.org.uk for more information.