Cardiff Dragons FC
By Sported | 25th August 2021
We recently caught up with Cardiff Dragons FC. Founded in 2008 by a group of men who were part of the Gay Football Supporters Network, and felt it was time for Cardiff to offer LGBTQ+ people a safe and inclusive space to play football.
Cardiff Dragons FC has been part of the Sported network since 2014, with our Wales team offering advice and insight which helped achieve a successful funding application from the Be Active Wales Fund application. The club is a home and a haven for all of their members.
When the club was set up, it was filling a void, Ryan from Cardiff Dragons recalls.
“Many of those founder members, and indeed our hundreds of members over the years, felt excluded from mainstream football teams due to the toxic homophobic culture within the game. We have countless stories of members who quit their football teams when they came out as they felt they were unable to be open about their sexuality, or members, like myself, who never joined football teams in the first place due to fear of homophobia.”
“Over the years as we have grown, in 2015 we set up a Sunday League team as we felt the time was right to enter and compete in “mainstream” local leagues. In 2015 we also established a women’s team, entering the Bristol Women’s Casual Football league. There are different challenges within the women’s game.
“While there is a general view that the women’s game is more accepting of LGBTQ+ players, often young women coming to terms with their sexuality are put off playing sports due to fears of name-calling. Additionally, women playing sports often face homophobic abuse from fans regardless of their sexuality. We are proud that we offer high quality coaching to our members, and we have a broad range of abilities in our membership, from Welsh Premier standard right down to complete beginners.”
The club fights for what they believe in, as Ryan tells us:
“In recent years, our club has represented a broader range of genders and sexualities. We now have a number of trans and non-binary players, and many of these players are unable to play for other teams as the FA criteria for trans players requires submission of invasive medical records and routine hormone tests and submitting to a panel for “permission” to play.
While these rules may have relevance at a very elite level, they are completely inappropriate for our recreational level, and therefore we refuse to affiliate to the FAW until they change these outdated and transphobic rules”
As social media was not widely used at the time, initial recruitment was hard for the group and they found it difficult to gain funding, especially in the winter when they didn’t have weekly sessions. Travelling to matches was getting costly for members, with many members who were students or unemployed / on a low income.
Due to the hard work from their dedicated volunteers, sponsorships and funding from Sports Wales, they have been able to thrive, .
“We have had the support of a number of sponsors over the years, and in particular we have been able to purchase equipment and put our coaches through coaching courses due to grant funding from Sport Wales. This funding was particularly crucial during Covid, where restrictions have prevented us from traditional face-to-face fundraising methods, and we thank Sported Wales for their assistance with our application.”
The club is excited about the future as they continue to compete in the Gay Football Supporter’s Network, for their women’s team to continue to compete in the Bristol Casual League and to look for more opportunities to link up with and support local teams with a similar ethos.
“We aim to grow the network of fun trans-inclusive football teams here in Cardiff. We are aiming to work more closely with Cardiff City FC, and this season we hope to launch the Proud Bluebirds, Cardiff City’s LGBTQ+ supporters group. We want to continue to campaign for trans players’ right to play football in their true gender, and we will continue to campaign for inclusive and mixed gender football.”
“The club has given our members a home and a community here in Cardiff”
The importance of the club can’t be underestimated, Ryan says.
“The club has given our members a home and a community here in Cardiff. Lifelong friendships, and relationships have formed here, even marriages. We have had players come along and we have been the first people they have been able to be open about their sexuality to.”
“A previous member, Hannah Graf (nee Winterbourne), who was the highest-ranking transgender officer in the British military, said:
I had my eyes opened to a new world of inclusive sport. I was welcomed by the fantastic Cardiff Dragons. I was nervous of how people would approach me but all they really cared about was that I was marking the opposition and my shots were on target. Playing like that, away from any labels, was truly liberating”
The Cardiff Dragons have built a brilliant base and community in Wales, fighting for what they believe in and making sport an inclusive and brilliant experience for all.