Two gay men have just become the first married gay couple to own a professional sports club.
According to ITV, Ryan O’Neill and Kaue Garcia, who run a tech company, have bought a major stake in the Keighley Cougars rugby team. The two finalized the decision last week.
This wasn’t a sudden and impulse buy though. O’Neill has personal history with the team through his father Mick. Mick O’Neill was once the head and owner of the club back in the 1990s. Now, Mick has returned as the club’s chairman. This is especially important as the club has been deteriorating as of late do to a lack of leadership.
“Being back in control after 20 years means so much to me personally and my family,” he said to Yorkshire Evening Post, “The town desperately needs a successful RL club and we intend to make that happen.”
“We are all looking forward to the challenge that lies ahead and will be working hard to bring a smile back to Cougars and the game in general.”
In addition, Mick O’Neill will be joined by a consortium of other partial stake holders. this includes his son and son-in-law.
Speaking to Pink News, Ryan and Kaue say that they have been welcomed earnestly by the athletes and staff.
“In our introduction as new owners to a packed meeting of supporters, we announced ourselves as a same-sex married couple, which was met with applause,” said Ryan O’Neill.
“In my first meeting with the Rugby Football League, we discussed gay rights, and they are extremely supportive in working with us on LGBT+ inclusive initiatives.”
It’s important to note how O’Neill and Garcia are creating history with their purchase of the club’s stakes.
There are very few openly LGBTQ owners of athletic teams and/or clubs. In fact, the first openly LGBTQ owner of a professional sports team was Laura Ricketts. According to the Windy City Times, Ricketts became the co-owner of the Chicago Cubs, along with her family, in 2009.
We wish the couple, the rest of the owners, and the Keighley Cougars the best of luck. To making plays and making history!