London Raiders.

The London Raiders are backing the bid to host the Gay Games in London2018. Who are they?

London Raiders go way back to 1994, when the club started with a few people playing informally in Hyde Park – though back then they were called the Rainbow Raiders.

Back in 1994, Jonathan Harbourne and Steve Thompson decided to form a Gay Softball group.  People were invited via the Gay press to Hyde Park sessions.  The Rainbow flag would be planted, the bases would be set up on a flat part of the park nearby and a game would get going. “Hardly any of us knew how to throw, hit or catch. Those that had played before passed on their knowledge and skills. We all learned from each other and by just having a go.”  By afternoon more and more people showed up ending up playing twenty-a-side softball.

By 1996, sessions were more formalised, and they were playing in the Publishing League. The Hackney Handbags – a womens football team that played softball in the summer months joined in. By 2002 they had grown so much that two teams were formed (London Boyz and London Girlz) and they all attended the Sydney Gay Games.  In the last few years, the team has grown to over 135 players with a development squad and various league teams.

Matt McSherry is a team member, he says “I was never picked for sports as a kid and would class myself ‘team sports phobic’ before I met the Raiders. Being encouraged, trained and challenged in a sporting environment where my sexuality isn’t a reason for derision or exclusion has shown me that I’m actually not bad at sports in general and now I positively enjoy playing. If I could travel back in time and show myself as a kid what I do now in sports I think it would have helped to improve my confidence, fitness and social abilities.”  As for the London2018 Gay Games bid, he hope that bringing the games to London “will build on the success of the Olympics and Paralympics this year in getting people from all walks of life up and about and trying new sports.”

For more about the London Raiders, have a look at  http://www.londonraiders.co.uk/

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