Johnathan Zemlik has joined the Keighley Cougars Operations team as the club’s Liaison to the LGBTQIA+ Community! Zemlik affectionately known as JZ to many of the Rugby clubs he’s played in, has been a passionate supporter of the Cougars for a number of years. He is also an active Rugby Union player, playing for a number of clubs within the Inclusive Gay Rugby movement. Currently playing for Leeds Hunters RUFC and Ossett RUFC. This voluntary role will see him supporting the club’s strategy to enhance our support for the LGBTQIA+ community, especially the Cougars work to promote Trans inclusion within Sport. 

JZ will also be helping the Cougars engage with the wider LGBTQIA+ Rugby community as Cougars work to position ourselves as the Champion for the Queer Community in professional Rugby. This will involve building relationships with both IGR Rugby Union clubs across the UK and beyond but also exploring the potential for joint campaigns with bodies who share the Cougars core values of diversity, inclusion, and equality. 

Central in this will be the Keighley Cougars Pre-Season Pride Tournament in September this year where we hope to bring together up to eight IGR clubs together for a 10’s tournament at Cougar Park ahead of the IGR division seasons start in October. This free tournament will give clubs the chance to play for not only the Cougar Park Cup and Cougar Park plate, but also cash prizes and celebrate diversion and inclusion across the Rugby codes. 

On top of this, JZ will be working to support our dream of creating the UK’s first LGBTQIA+ and allies grassroots Rugby team, using his connections across IGR and local grassroots Rugby to bring together a squad with a view to playing friendlies before the end of 2024. This aligns with the Cougars ambition to make Rugby League more accessible to the Queer community and signal to the numerous gay and bisexual men who already play Rugby League that there is a place where they can not only be their whole selves, but be celebrated for it too! Central in the success of this will be partnerships with existing LGBTQIA+ bodies and local clubs across both Union and League. JZ said;

“I’m thrilled to have been given this opportunity to support the Cougars important work, I can’t wait to get started! The Rugby community is a family, and I look forward to helping Ryan and Kaue expand the Cougars Rugby Family across the UK and the world through networking with LGBTQIA+ Rugby Clubs, local Rugby clubs and engagement with groups like Keighley and Ilkley Pride. For here on in its Cougar time all the time!” 

Moreover, JZ will be supporting the club’s social media presence to help amplify our message to the wider LGBTQIA+ and Rugby communities. JZ has a history of helping clubs enhance their presence on social media building digital communities across Instagram, X, LinkedIn, Facebook and TikTok. This will greatly help Cougars connect with the wider LGBTQIA+ and Rugby communities as allow us to share our work. JZ has also supported Sponsorship activities at both IGR and local division clubs connecting international technology firms through to local breweries with clubs that align with their corporate values. Kaue Garcia Managing Director said:

“Johnathan Zemlik’s addition to our team fills us with immense excitement as we continue to champion inclusivity within the LGBTQIA+ community. His dedication to promoting LGBTQ+ acceptance aligns perfectly with our mission, and we believe his contributions will be instrumental in solidifying our position as leaders in both professional sports and community engagement.” 

We are thrilled to welcome JZ to Cougar Park and can’t wait to update you with our progress on the Preseason Pride Cup, our own Grassroots LGBTQIA+ and Allies Team and our endeavours to Champion Trans Rights within sport. You can follow JZ on Instagram @johnathan.a.zemlik or on X @jonathanzemlik. If you’d like to contact JZ about ways Cougars can work with local LGBTQIA+ groups you can reach him at