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Monday, December 07, 2020

Our new JBG? partnership with Keighley Albion RL FC

Keighley Albion are proud to announce that we have become a recognised partner club to the Just a ball game? organisation.
The official partnership is the first of its kind between a Community Rugby League Club and an organisation founded on promoting inclusivity in Grassroots Sports.

Just a Ball Game? (JABG?) encourage and promote inclusivity in sport environments, helping to support all the protected characteristics (in the Equality Act 2010): age; disability; gender reassignment; marriage and civil partnership; pregnancy and maternity; race; religion or belief; sex; and sexual orientation.
Having recently celebrated their tenth anniversary, JABG? have a developed a fantastic reputation through their work in sport, and in 2019 they won the UK Prime Minister Points of Light Award for LGBT+ inclusion in sport. The organisation have made a fantastic impact in grassroots football, with successful existing partner club relationships with Bradford City, F.C United of Manchester and AFC Rushden and Diamonds.
The organisation also have the support of several passionate and notable patrons, including Neville Southall (former Welsh International footballer), Edward Lord OBE (Chair of the London English Football Football Association. Inclusion Advisory Group) and Phuti Lekoloane (the first ‘out’ gay male professional footballer in South African Football). 
The Rugby Football League are passionate about promoting inclusivity in the sport, and as recent as October 2020, the governing body published a sport-wide action plan to make Rugby League a truly inclusive sport by tackling discrimination and breaking down any barriers to involvement. The “Tackle It” initiative includes actions on player and coach recruitment and development, talent inclusion and progression, community outreach and club development, as well as ensuring zero tolerance of all forms of discrimination within the game.
As a proud and reputable community club in the sport (Being one of Yorkshire’s biggest clubs) Keighley Albion are passionate about promoting inclusivity, equality and diversity across all levels. With over 300 registered club members, (with mixed gender teams from 3-11 years old, U12-U18 gender specific teams, and Open Age Men’s and Ladies teams), the club prides itself on encouraging the participation of all players, creating a respectful and safe environment.
There is also a mutual connect between Keighley Albion and JABG, with former player Reece Robertson being a patron of the organisation. When Reece came out as gay whilst playing for Albions open age side, the news was welcomed by his teammates, and likewise supported by the club.
 The partnership between Albion and JABG has also been endorsed by the towns professional team Keighley Cougars, as well as the Cougars Foundation.
The Cougars are fantastic ambassadors for inclusivity, and in 2019 the club hosted Rugby Leagues first ever PRIDE Event, with the innovative match day experience receiving a fantastic response from the community and the sport of Rugby League. The Cougars are famously the first ever sports club to be owned by a married same-sex couple in Ryan O’Neil and Kaue Garcia, and undoubtedly the message of inclusivity is one very close to the clubs heart. In line with the Foundations Community policy, players will be going out into the local Keighley community, including sports clubs and schools, to discuss inclusivity with local people.

Albion Committee Member, Rob Spencer:
We are really excited about the announcement and partnership with Just a Ball Game? as we look to change the perception of Rugby League in Keighley from a stereotyped ‘tough mans game’ to a sport and social environment where everyone is welcome.
We have to engage with our community and ensure that our club is more representative of its demographics. In the 2011 census, the largest social groups in the Keighley Parish outside those described as White, were Asian/Asian British (23.5%) and Black/African/Caribbean/Black British (0.7%). For the purposes of social integration, and in the interests of encouraging healthy lifestyles and positive lifestyle choices, better engagement with communities is of paramount importance - and our partnership with JABG? will help us to achieve these aims.
 I was heavily inspired by the Keighley Cougars Pride Day in 2019, having taken my U6 primary age group to take part in the curtain raiser. Having spoken initially to the clubs owner Ryan O’Neill regarding the partnership - it was great to hear that both the Cougars and the Foundation would endorse and support the partnership, and we would like to thank Cougars for their ongoing support.
Keighley Albion Chairman, Richard Dibbin:
We are delighted and proud to have made this partnership, we are the first amateur Rugby League club to have become a partner of JABG?, and the first community club in the sport to seek such a partnership - this speaks volumes on the type of club we want to build here. Rugby League is one of the greatest character building team sports, and everyone should feel confident and comfortable to take part.
We have started making plans to support the partnership including introducing an Inclusion Officer to our clubs committee. This role will be carried out by Maria Wild, who will help to promote, educate and implement interventions to encourage the awareness of inclusivity at club level. We have also started discussing hosting a pride festival that will include all our junior teams participating in a tournament with off field activities and entertainment. 

Lindsay England, Founder of JUST A BALL GAME?:
"We are very excited to have formed a partnership with Keighley Albion Rugby League FC and look forward to working with them on all things equality, inclusion and diversity."
"True acceptance and respect are generally all LGBT+ people expect from others, and many LGBT+ struggles have been won in the hearts and minds of the community."

With the passion of both the junior/amateur game alongside the towns professional club to promote inclusivity in Keighley, there will certainly be a fantastic impact in the local community.
More information on the partnership and JABG? can be found on the following links:
Keighley Albions JABG? Partner Club Profile:
TWITTER: @justaballgame
INSTAGRAM: @justaballgame