BULLS take on Newcastle in the Championship this evening, on an occasion with a difference.

Mark Dunning’s side will run out at Odsal wearing their third kit, which features the Pride rainbow across the top of the shirt, as well as on the shorts and socks.

Bulls will be holding Pride celebrations for the LGBTQ+ community all day too, as they show they are a club open to all.

But why does it matter?

Well for a start, the comments below the T&A’s initial announcement of the shirt going on sale left plenty to be desired.

Here are a selection:

“I definitely won’t be buying one and I hope we get beat every time we play in it.”

“All in the name of political correctness. Pathetic.”

“What next? Leather sleeves with metal studs for the fetish community?”

“None of this has anything to do with rugby. Pure wokeness.”

“More box ticking. Please make a shirt for the poor Bulls fans who are sick of all this political rubbish in sport.”

All of that outcry over a kit, which is doing nothing but show support for the LGBTQ+ community.

You don’t have to buy it, wear it or attend a Pride march, but what harm is it doing to you?

Sport has a complicated relationship with homosexuality and gender, as reflected in the groundbreaking story of Blackpool teenager Jake Daniels earlier this week, the first professional footballer to come out as gay in over 30 years.

Talented former Norwich and Nottingham Forest forward Justin Fashanu came out in 1990, but he suffered fearful homophobic abuse, his life and career spiralled out of control somewhat, and he died by suicide eight years later.

Daniels’ revelation should not have been big news, but it became so. LGBT charity Stonewall has reported that 72 per cent of football fans have heard homophobic abuse and that one in five 18 to 24-year-olds say they’d be embarrassed if their favourite player came out.

There are surely plenty of gay footballers around, but the handful who have come out down the years have nearly always done it once retired, no doubt fearful of the potential abuse of crowds and even being shunned by their team-mates.

Rugby league only has a handful of “out” representatives too, and on the playing front, there are very few visible ones.

Former Wakefield star Keegan Hirst came out in 2015, but speaking out in 2020 after his retirement, he said he felt the sport was still not welcoming enough for those wanting to express their sexuality in public.

NRL player Ian Roberts famously came out in 1995, but was physically attacked on more than one occasion for his sexuality, not to mention the number of times he was verbally abused.

But attitudes are starting to shift in sport, with the Rainbow Laces campaign seeing athletes wear them on their shoes and trainers.

And more rugby league clubs are throwing themselves into LGBTQ+ representation.

Newcastle’s reverse fixture with Bulls on July 8 will see the North-East side partner with Northern Pride, to give the pre-Magic Weekend curtain-raiser a real festival feel.

They will wear a one-off kit themselves on the day too, which will then be auctioned off, with the funds raised supporting Northern Pride.

Newcastle’s general manager Jordan Robinson came out as gay recently, and it will no doubt be a weekend to make him proud.

Keighley Cougars have led the way in this regard, having had annual Pride fixtures since 2019.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Cougars hosting a Pride game against West Wales in 2019. Picture: Charlie Perry.Cougars hosting a Pride game against West Wales in 2019. Picture: Charlie Perry.

Ryan O’Neill and Kaue Garcia are a co-owners of the club, and as a married gay couple, they have helped break boundaries in the sport.

O’Neill is delighted to see how accepting the Keighley community is, saying in 2020: “We’ve moved on so far in the last four or five years and, if we can help and move it forward, so much the better.

“Rugby does have that macho image that suggests we might not be all that welcome but that’s incredibly false.

“Our supporter base is relatively limited because we’re in League 1, but the demographic in terms of ethnic minorities and gender and sexuality shows we have a real mix.

“We have a surprising number of gay and lesbian supporters. It shocked me actually. I thought when me and Kaue went up there, we’d be the only ones in the village so to speak. But we certainly weren’t.”

It is great that clubs can hold events like Keighley do, and Bulls and Newcastle will be doing.

It might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but listening to friends of mine talk about coming out, and the lack of people feeling able to do so in sport, you realise how much they have to go through to be themselves than the average straight person.

If you don’t want to attend the games, or support the team over it, I guess that’s your choice.

But in the meantime, let others celebrate an occasion that is far more important than you might have realised.