Why Sponsorship is a Powerful Form of Allyship: “I’m Finally Back Where I Belong (on the Rugby Field)”

It’s pure joy when companies like Zebra follow through on their commitments to inclusion and diversity – and extend their support of the LGBTQ+ community beyond their four walls.

Alex Holdsworth plays in a rugby match
by Alex Holdsworth
November 30, 2021

When the Reading (UK) Renegades arrived in London for our first full contact rugby game this side of the pandemic, there was a sense of nervous excitement in the air. Everyone was looking forward to the game, but after such a long period away from contact rugby, the team was naturally feeling a bit nervous. Right before the game started, we grouped in the changing rooms for one last team talk – the game was finally here! It was at this moment we all put on the brand new 2021/2022 Reading Renegades kit for the first time, and suddenly the nerves were replaced with excitement. We knew we wanted to start the new era of Reading Renegades with a win, and Zebra has helped create these pure moments with our new professional-looking kit!

Here’s how it all got (re)started…

The Reading Renegades are an inclusive rugby club based in Reading, Berkshire UK. They provide specialist Rugby Provision to all members of our community, with a particular focus on supporting the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Queer (LGBTQ+) community. The Renegades have been an established member of the International Gay Rugby (IGR) association and Berkshire Rugby Football Union (Berkshire RFU) since 2016 and pride themselves in championing the values of both of these organizations under the umbrella of England Rugby.

The club trains twice a week, providing sessions for both touch and contact rugby. There is a team of experienced, qualified coaches who tailor the training to the varied needs of the club, from experienced rugby veterans to complete beginners. Whether members are primarily with the club for social reasons or looking for competitive game time, they ensure all our members come away from our training sessions learning new skills, making new friends, and feeling part of the Renegades rugby family.

The pandemic was a challenging time for the club. Training sessions could not take part for several months, and there were less opportunities for the club to fund raise, leading to the club being in a financially weaker position. When I learnt that the club was looking for new sponsors for the 2021/2022 season, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity for Zebra to sponsor the Renegades!

Recently, our LGBTQ+ inclusion network, Zebra Equality Alliance (ZEAL) sponsored Reading Pride, a local Pride event in the UK located close to our EMEA Headquarters in Bourne End. The event was a huge success, and it gave many Zebra employees the chance to see the wonderful work done to promote inclusion in Reading. This made it very easy when approaching Zebra, asking if they would sponsor the Reading Renegades, who were also heavily involved in Reading Pride (and had their stall even positioned next to us at the event!)

A few conversations later, Zebra Technologies had officially become the title sponsor of the Reading Renegades Rugby Club. When playing matches in the upcoming season, I will proudly wear the Zebra logo on my chest as the new title sponsor of the rugby club. 

Zebra employee Alex Holdsworth stands on the rugby field wearing his new Zebra-sponsored kit

It shows that Zebra really goes the extra mile to support its employees, especially those in marginalized communities. I feel this sponsorship really puts Zebra on the map as an inclusive company and is an excellent example of our core values being demonstrated by giving back to the local community.

The sponsorship has had a huge impact on the club already, and we now have an official training ground at Berkshire County Sports Club. This is a huge improvement over the grass field in the local park we previously played on. These facilities will help the Renegades to train to a much higher standard and allow us to host our own games and tournaments going forward in our own venue.

But this is just one example of how Zebra gives back to the local community. My advice for anyone reading this blog would be to have a similar conversation with your own organization about how it can support your local community. Just one simple discussion can be the start of some fantastic relationships where you can make a real difference and make some great friends along the way! 

The Reading Renegades rugby team
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Alex Holdsworth
Alex Holdsworth is currently an EMEA Regional Product Manager where he is responsible for Enterprise Mobile Computing (EMC) and Industrial Printers.