Rugby players who dressed in drag to raise £40,000 for charity are told to stop by hospice


A group of rugby players who dress in drag to raise money for a local hospice have been told the publicity images of them in women’s clothes will no longer be used by the charity in case it offends the LGBT community. 

Upton Rugby Club, in Worcestershire, raised over £40,000 for a local hospice over the last 18 years by wearing fancy dress for their charity events.

But they have now been told their choice of attire could be deemed offensive by charity bosses – despite not receiving a single complaint.

Father-of-three Mark Tomlinson, 54, who is a member of the rugby club, has been helping to organise the ‘Leo Sayer All Dayer’ since 2003.

But he was left gobsmacked to be told by St Richard’s Hospice they would no longer be publicising the event over fears it might upset the LGBT community.

He has now lodged a formal complaint with the Worcester-based hospice, where his wife Pip died of cancer in 2008, and described the decision as ‘PC gone mad’.

Upton Rugby Club, in Worcestershire, raised over £40,000 for a local hospice over the last 18 years by wearing fancy dress for their charity events

Upton Rugby Club, in Worcestershire, raised over £40,000 for a local hospice over the last 18 years by wearing fancy dress for their charity events

But they have now been told their choice of attire could be deemed offensive by charity bosses - despite not receiving a single complaint

But they have now been told their choice of attire could be deemed offensive by charity bosses – despite not receiving a single complaint

Father-of-three Mark Tomlinson, 54, who is a member of the rugby club, has been helping to organise the 'Leo Sayer All Dayer' since 2003. But he was left gobsmacked to be told by St Richard's Hospice they would no longer be publicising the event over fears it might upset the LGBT community

Father-of-three Mark Tomlinson, 54, who is a member of the rugby club, has been helping to organise the ‘Leo Sayer All Dayer’ since 2003. But he was left gobsmacked to be told by St Richard’s Hospice they would no longer be publicising the event over fears it might upset the LGBT community

Mr Tomlinson, a construction site manager, from Upton-upon-Severn, said: ‘We have been doing this for 18 years and not had one complaint.

‘St Richard’s is a cause that is very close to our hearts. It’s not about publicity or recognition but it’s about the ridiculous excuse they gave for not doing it.

‘It’s just political cobblers. I’m sure we’re not the only charitable organisation to come across this bureaucracy.

‘I am sure people in the hospice don’t mind that 12 blokes are dressed in frocks and raise thousands of pounds.

‘This is not publicity stunts, or a personal crusade, we are just trying to raise money for a good cause.’

Mr Tomlinson is now vowing to continue the fundraising tradition of the rugby club, to honour a former teammate Justin Morton who died in 2007, aged 34.

He added: ‘We have been doing different events for the last 18 years, the Leo Sayer All Dayer, three charity balls and we pushed a car around the rugby pitch for 24 hours.

Mr Tomlinson (left, with his late father Sid), a construction site manager, from Upton-upon-Severn, said: 'We have been doing this for 18 years and not had one complaint'

Mr Tomlinson (left, with his late father Sid), a construction site manager, from Upton-upon-Severn, said: ‘We have been doing this for 18 years and not had one complaint’

Mr Tomlinson is now vowing to continue the fundraising tradition of the rugby club, to honour a former teammate Justin Morton who died in 2007, aged 34

Mr Tomlinson is now vowing to continue the fundraising tradition of the rugby club, to honour a former teammate Justin Morton who died in 2007, aged 34

‘During the Leo Sayer All Dayer, the rules are we can wear our own underwear, but we have to get clothes from the St. Richard’s charity shop.

‘We couldn’t find jackets or trousers to fit us. So, this easiest thing for us to do was get a hat, frock and handbag.

‘We lost Justin Morton from the rugby club at 34 in 2007 and my wife Pip in early 2008 – both were cared for by St Richard’s.

‘So that’s how it all started – to honour my wife, a former teammate and another teammates mum, June Cooper.

‘St Richard’s are a fantastic service and give absolutely outstanding care.

‘Every year we buy our outfits at their shops – they get them in specially – often paying over £20 a head and then tour the town, visiting pubs and accepting donations for the hospice.

‘Suddenly, a photo taken outside their Upton shop has triggered an outright ban. During the summer we were invited by the hospice to do a feature.

‘We sent some photographs over to them and we have been told by the hospice, that they are not going to use in case it offends the LGBT community.

The Leo Sayers, who got their name from all of the group being the star sign Leo, are now going to fundraise for another charity

The Leo Sayers, who got their name from all of the group being the star sign Leo, are now going to fundraise for another charity

‘The photo, that was taken outside the shop, was even taken by St. Richard’s charity shop workers.’

The Leo Sayers, who got their name from all of the group being the star sign Leo, are now going to fundraise for another charity.

Mr Tomlinson added: ‘We are going to continue to raise money, but for a different charity.

‘The local community love it and they help us out massively – it’s a fun day and we’re not hurting or trying to offend anyone.

‘I’m also in contact with a LGBT charity to see if our actions are actually offensive but I think it is more a matter of woke people getting offended on their behalf.’

St Richard’s Hospice Chief Executive June Patel said: ‘We truly appreciate all the fundraising that this group have undertaken over many years towards our care but this week have come under fire for not posting an image of them dressed as women to our social media back in the summer.

‘A few years ago we ran a fundraising event which involved men dressing up and we received complaints that we had upset members of the local community. We took those complaints on board and promised to learn from them.

‘So, as hugely grateful as we are to the group for raising funds for us, when we thanked them on social media we didn’t include the image of them dressed up.

‘We want St Richard’s to be welcoming to all members of our community, providing free care to those who need us. If in trying to be sensitive to this we got this wrong on this occasion we are sorry.’



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Written by Bourbiza Mohamed

A technology enthusiast and a passionate writer in the field of information technology, cyber security, and blockchain

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