New Zealand Rugby (NZR) has become the first national sporting organisation in New Zealand to receive Rainbow Tick certification, an independent assessment designed to make an organisation a safe, welcoming and inclusive place for people of diverse gender identity and sexual orientation.

The certification followed six months of evaluation to demonstrate NZR had strategies and policies that specifically mentioned inclusion, reported regularly on inclusion at all levels and offered training to staff.

NZR General Manager of Rugby, Neil Sorensen said the catalyst for change was the results of the 2015 international study on homophobia in sport, Out in the Fields, which said that more needed to be done across the game to promote inclusion and diversity.

“Rugby has a lofty vision to inspire and unify all New Zealanders but we knew we couldn’t achieve that if people felt excluded from rugby. A priority for us was to make sure our organisation was welcoming to everyone and the Rainbow Tick is a great step forward.

“Over the past two years NZR has established an inclusion and diversity leadership team to drive change and promote diversity within the organisation and further afield through Sport For Everyone, an initiative involving the major sporting organisations in New Zealand. We have made a start but acknowledge that we have a long road ahead to be considered truly ‘inclusive’.

“We’re hopeful that NZR’s focus on inclusion and diversity will go some way towards encouraging others associated with rugby to take steps to eliminate homophobia from our game and ensure we’re inspiring and unifying all New Zealanders, irrespective of their gender, ethnicity, ability or sexual orientation.” Michael Stevens, Programme Director of Rainbow Tick praised NZR for their focus on ensuring an inclusive workplace for LGBT+ employees and for their focus on inclusion and diversity over recent years.

“Rugby occupies a special place in the New Zealand psyche and society. The fact New Zealand Rugby has embarked on this work with such goodwill and sincerity sends a powerful message to the entire country as well to those whom they employ.

“We saw evidence of genuine commitment to this work from leadership of the organisation and real goodwill and commitment to inclusion of Rainbow staff by staff from a range of levels within NZR.”