‘The right message is that sport has a place for everyone, irrespective of your sexuality’ – David Gough
Referee David Gough has said it’s “a little bit sad” that there is still an absence of openly gay men players in inter-county GAA, adding there is a “very real fear, albeit a very irrational fear” among them about coming out.
It’s that fear around exclusion, fear around body image and showering with other males and what they’re perceiving, and none of it comes to any fruition whatsoever,” said Gough. “Everything just goes on and continues as normal.”
Gough came out as gay in 2011 and he hoped that decision might encourage gay players to follow suit. “I just assumed it would open doorways for other people and it doesn’t seem to have or maybe they just haven’t taken the opportunity. They’re there, there’s no doubt about it.”
But on the eve of the Dublin Pride Parade, the Meath native is hopeful that change is coming. “Visibility is key to all of this and (it’s about) happily existing as a member of the LGBT community but also within the sports world and representing both without any conflict. That sounds the right message to younger people – that sport is the right place for them, irrespective of their sexuality.”
Gough has “never” encountered homophobic abuse on the pitch as “there is such a respect” between him and the players, and he cited the example of Leinster rugby player Nick McCarthy coming out as proof that so many fears about it among GAA players are misguided.
“As Nick would say and I would say: there was nothing but a huge amount of support that came from the dressing-room when both of us came out and it led to another player in my club coming out only a couple of years later. We can see the knock-on effect from the first coming out in Leinster Rugby, and now the second. It shows that actually dressing-rooms are quite accepting places.”
Gough would love to walk in tomorrow’s Pride Parade but will instead be at home, conserving his energy for his assignment on Sunday – taking charge of the All-Ireland quarter-final between Mayo and Kerry.
As a referee – just as it is for the players – this is where he wants to be.
“I will be very nervous but nerves to me mean I want to do a good job – it matters,” he says. “I want to perform the best I can. My team of umpires are going to be there and we want to put up the best performance to put us in line for an All-Ireland final on July 24. That’s the end goal.”
On weeks like this, Gough spends much of his time memorising players’ faces and studying the rule book to ensure he gets things right, but one thing he won’t be doing is listening to what pundits have been saying about recent refereeing decisions.
“I don’t watch The Sunday Game so it wouldn’t come on my radar,” he says. “Personally, I watch the game back the day after with the volume off and do my own assessment, and what pundits and players and panellists on RTÉ think is irrelevant because they’re not coming from the same knowledge of the rules as I am, so their opinion doesn’t really count, in my book.”
As for the variance in refereeing styles, Gough believes there’s a misconception about those who let the game flow.
“The game flows because the players play inside the rules. If there’s a free, the free has been caused by a foul, the foul has been caused by the player, so you have to point it back to the player and stop looking at the referee.
“I’m very, very black and white when it comes to rules. I’m very conscious of not being biased and creating equal playing conditions for players, and treating them all with the same courtesy or respect.”
David Gough was speaking as part of SuperValu’s #CommunityIncludesEveryone campaign, which is calling on GAA communities across the country to do what they can to make their community more diverse and inclusive