Pride Month: inclusive rugby club the Manchester Village Spartans RUFC

The Manchester Village Spartans Rugby Club

Spirit of Rugby is a two year project with a focus on 16 to 25-year-olds in 15 communities across the UK. The project’s goal is to increase inclusive participation in the Rugby Union – ranging from playing the sport, to promotion of rugby to harder to reach groups. Spirit of Rugby funding was awarded to a sports club for gay and bisexual men called Manchester Village Spartans RUFC, which has helped grow its volunteer recruits and rugby team. Recently, the Spartans have also been nominated for a National Lottery Award.

Spartans team members tell Spirit why the club is important to them:

Name: Dave Pumford                                                                 
Age: 25 
Position: Flanker/Hooker                                         
Joined: August 2016
I'd heard of the Spartans around Manchester Gay Village, but never thought I would fit into rugby. The Rugby World Cup inspired me so I researched how to get involved as a gay man and this lead me to the Spartans. The "We Call It Rugby" video gave me the confidence to have a go.I thought there’s a certain ‘type’ for rugby and my sexuality would hold me back but the Spartans has changed my outlook. The respect rugby teaches you, not only for yourself, but for each other, is life changing.                                                     

Name: Tom Bird-Jones       
Age: 25
Position: Second Row
Joined: 2015
I got into rugby through a friend who was a member. I thought rugby players weren’t like me, now I know rugby is for everybody – regardless of shape, size, sexuality or skill level! I’ve benefited tremendously from the Spartans, including weight loss, improved fitness and better mental health. I’ve grown in self-confidence and being a part of the team has enabled me to help newcomers. I'm thankful to be a part of a club that understands the stigma and struggles of being gay in sport.


Name: Vedran Lesic 
Age: 29
Position: Wing
Joined: September 2016
A friend recommended the Spartans because of its inclusive culture and support for new players. I started rugby from scratch, without any previous skills or experience. In the last six months I’ve become a confident player. 
Being a Spartan has given me a new perspective of rugby. It’s welcoming and open to anyone willing to make an effort and develop their skills. Rugby has great traditions and I’m now a passionate supporter of the game. 


Name: Craig Smith                                                              
Age: 31
Position: Second Row / Flanker
Joined: August 2016
I joined the club apprehensive as I didn’t know what to expect when playing ‘straight’ teams. The Spartans made me realise how accepting the rugby community is and how other teams keep it true to the spirit of the game. Pushing myself that extra 10% in rugby training is something I've applied to my professional life too.


Name: Paul Wilson 
Age: 48
Position: Flanker
Joined: December 2016
I joined the Spartans because I'd always wanted to play rugby, but felt deeply uncomfortable joining a conventional club. I've since discovered what it feels like to be part of something bigger than just me. Being a Spartan has showed me anyone can play rugby, not just someone you imagine would be a typical rugby player.


Name: Jonathan Quinn
Age: 30
Position: Hooker
Joined: November 2016
I joined rugby to battle my anxiety and depression as I needed to pull myself out of a dark place. I didn't follow rugby before but now it's something I really enjoy. I feel part of a community and have built an amazing group of friends, the Spartans have improved my mental health and fitness.

Further Information:
•   Manchester Village Spartans
•   Spirit of Rugby