This weekend sport turned rainbow in the biggest display of support for LGBT people in sport, in the world, ever.
Some of the most influential bodies, clubs and personalities from sport came together to show that LGBT people are welcome and accepted in sport. The Premier League itself, and every club within it, showed their support on the pitch and on social media. And professional football and rugby clubs, players and fans from across Great Britain also joined our campaign to make sport everyone’s game.
The scale of support was unprecedented. The Rainbow Laces campaign has had broad support from clubs and leagues in the past, but this weekend was something else. It felt like a tipping point in sport, as more and more influential clubs, leagues, governing bodies, brands and personalities stepped up to show they will not tolerate homophobia, biphobia or transphobia.
However, anyone in any doubt about whether this campaign is needed, only had to scan social media. Hatred and homophobia were rife. Every time a club, player, or anyone else, expressed their support, it was met with a barrage of abuse. It was a real and constant reminder of just how much work there still is to do, that the fight is not over.
Over the weekend, it became clear how many people were willing to take this fight on with us.
As well as LGBT people calling out the abuse, we saw plenty of allies expressing their disgust at the homophobic tweets and messages.
They were passionate. They were as angry. They were demanding change.
This moment has been a long time coming. In the last few years, LGBT fans of many of Britain’s biggest football clubs have organised LGBT fan groups. They are a truly inspirational and growing movement. Many have a presence at every game, sitting together proudly with a flag or banner so that it’s clear to everyone at the game that LGBT fans exist; that they’re part of the community. Clubs like Arsenal, Manchester City, Tottenham, Crystal Palace and Norwich have worked closely with their LGBT fan groups and given them a platform within the whole club community.
Clubs have listened to this call from the LGBT community. When we approached them to join the campaign, they were more than willing. They want change to happen for their LGBT fans, they want to embrace and celebrate LGBT people as part of the sport community.
To LGBT sport fans this weekend sent an unequivocal message of support. Players who wore the armband, referees who laced up, managers who spoke out in support of the community all sent one message - ‘You are welcome here. We’re on your side’. To the wider fan community, it inspired people to show their support and gave them the confidence to challenge or report hate when they heard it.
The Rainbow Laces campaign isn’t about getting sportspeople to come out, it’s about getting people– from all levels of sport – to come out in support of the LGBT community.
This weekend we were truly overwhelmed by that support.
This new team of allies– from professional bodies to grass roots fans – have shown that together we can create change. They’ve shown their passionate. They’ve shown they’re up for the challenges ahead. They’ve shown that together we can make change possible and that together we can achieve acceptance without exception.