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Sport turns rainbow

  • The Premier League, Football Association, English Football League and Rugby Football Union join Stonewall’s Rainbow Laces campaign
  • Football clubs Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool, and rugby clubs Sale, Newcastle and Bristol are among those showing their support
  • Stonewall release a campaign video to explore LGBT abuse and its effect on sports players and fans 

The Premier League,  Football Association, English Football League, Rugby Football Union and sports clubs around Britain are hosting a Rainbow Laces takeover this weekend to show their support for lesbian, gay, bi and trans players and fans.

Rainbow Laces-themed activities are taking place throughout this week (21 November – 27 November) in both professional and grass roots sports clubs.

The Premier League are marking their support for the campaign at every fixture this weekend. Perimeter advertising at every match will include supporting Rainbow Laces messaging and every game will be opened with a giant Premier League Rainbow Laces flag.   

Football clubs around Britain, including all Premier League Clubs, and a number of clubs in the Championship, League One and League Two, English Football League and Welsh Rugby.

Football clubs include Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool FC, Hull City and rugby clubs include Sale, Newcastle, Bristol and Bath.

Activities include teams wearing Rainbow Laces during training, laces being handed out at weekend fixtures and clubs organising meetings between LGBT fan groups.

The Wembley Arch will also be lit up in rainbow colours on Saturday 26 November and the Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL) are also joining in, with referees lacing up for this weekend’s fixtures.

This mass show of support follows research released by Stonewall earlier this year, which revealed 72 per cent of football fans have heard homophobic abuse at a live sports event.

 But the research, conducted by ICM and released in September, also showed that the majority of sports fans welcome LGBT fans and players. Almost two-thirds (63 per cent) said more should be done to make LGBT people feel accepted in sport.

As part of the Rainbow Laces week, Stonewall has produced a film featuring LGBT athletes and fans talking about the effect that homophobic, biphobic and transphobic language has on those who watch and play sport.  

The film features Team GB canoeing champion Matt Lister, Sophie Cook, club photographer for AFC Bournemouth, and former England and Team GB women’s football captain Casey Stoney, as well as coaches, fans and players – all of whom identify as lesbian, bi, gay or trans. 

Ian Ritchie, Chief Executive RFU, said: ‘The Rugby Football Union is proud to support Stonewall and the Rainbow Laces campaign. We believe rugby’s core values of respect, teamwork and sportsmanship resonate with what is at the heart of this important campaign.  We are committed to ensuring that sport provides an inclusive and welcoming environment for all at every level and we look forward to working with Stonewall to raise awareness and tackle inequality on and off the field.’

Premier League Executive Chairman, Richard Scudamore, said: ‘The Premier League is all about exciting, passionate and unpredictable football that is for everyone, everywhere. The Rainbow Laces campaign complements the work clubs are doing to promote inclusion and diversity in their stadiums, and across all levels of the sport. Our support for the campaign, and the decision to become members of Team Pride, is further recognition that the LGBT community is a vital and integral part of our community.’

Ruth Hunt, Stonewall’s Chief Executive, said: ‘The research we released earlier this year gave a clear indication of what needed to happen for sport to become more inclusive and we made it clear that if things were going to change we would need the support from across sport.

'It’s crucial for organisations like the Premier League, the Football Association and Rugby Football Union to show they welcome lesbian, gay, bi and trans people.

'At the moment, many LGBT people want to take part in sport, either as players or fans, but the abuse and hate from a minority of fans can make them feel unsafe, unwelcome or unable to be themselves. 

‘We know the majority of sports fans want a better, more inclusive game. This campaign is about encouraging people to step up and say they will not stand for abuse and the support of football and rugby clubs and associations is crucial because it gives people the confidence to do that.’

Stonewall has developed a range of measures to tackle homophobia, biphobia and transphobia in sport.

The charity has developed a sports toolkit for grassroots and community sport teams to build awareness and understanding of the issues affecting LGBT people, and how they can help ensure all sports offer an inclusive and welcoming atmosphere.

Stonewall will work with all of the clubs involved in Rainbow Laces to support their activities.

As well as signing up to Rainbow Laces, the Premier League has become a member of TeamPride, a coalition of organisations committed to making sport everyone’s game by encouraging fans, players, sports clubs and organisations to show their support of lesbian, gay, bi and trans people. 

The full list of members includes Adidas, Aon, Aviva, Manchester United, O2, Pitch Marketing Group, the Premier League, Sky Sports and Visa.

Robin Stalker, Chief Financial Officer and Executive Board Member at adidas, said: ‘We’re thrilled to be part of TeamPride. Sport should be open to everyone and we believe that through sport we have the power to change lives and through sports we can make this change happen. We are incredibly proud to be working with other organisations as part of TeamPride to support Stonewall and ensure that sport is for everyone.’

Phil Clement, ‎Global Chief Marketing and Communications Officer at Aon, said: ’Aon is proud to be a part of TeamPride and I firmly believe the group holds an enormous ability to influence the sports industry. There is still much more we need to do before all LGBT people can live freely as themselves. Sport unites us all and TeamPride and Stonewall are committed to making sport everyone’s game by raising awareness of these issues this November.’

Peter Markey, Brand & Marketing Communications Director at Aviva UK, said: ‘We are very pleased to be part of TeamPride, and look forward to supporting Stonewall’s Rainbow Laces campaign through our sponsorship of Aviva Premiership Rugby and Norwich City FC. This is an important opportunity to continue the great work Stonewall has done to ensure that sport is an arena that is inclusive for all.  Working with other organisations, who share our commitment to this, is hugely exciting.’

Henry Chappell, CEO OF Pitch Marketing Group, said: ‘We are extremely proud to be members of Team Pride and delighted to have been strategically and creatively involved in producing a campaign that celebrates diversity and promotes equality both on and off the pitch. The Rainbow Laces movement is evidence that sport has the power to change attitudes and perceptions, and we will continue to work with Stonewall to harness that power and to send a clear message to the public that sport is everyone’s game.’

Richard Arnold, Group Managing Director, Manchester United, said: ‘Joining TeamPride shows that Manchester United is fully committed to equality across the Club. We are working with Stonewall and other organisations to ensure we are at the forefront of equality and inclusion and we look forward to building on this partnership as we look to each other to share best practice, eradicating discrimination from sport and society.’

Bridget Lea, Director of Retail, Online and Omni-Channel at O2, said: ‘We’re proud to join a growing collective of businesses and organisations who are committed to making sport everyone’s game. By coming together we can change attitudes and create not just a sportsfield where lesbian, gay, bi and trans people are accepted, but a society that is accepting of everyone, without exception.’

Barney Francis, Managing Director of Sky Sports, said: ‘At Sky Sports we take pride in bringing the fantastic stories within sport to life every day, as well as the issues that lie at the heart of sport. By being part of TeamPride we can shine a light on those issues and help to tackle them. We are passionate about sport and want everyone to feel a part of it and the Rainbow Laces campaign can help make that happen. We’re proud to be a founding partner of TeamPride.’

Kevin Jenkins, Managing Director of Visa UK & Ireland, said: ‘Visa is extremely proud to continue our partnership with Stonewall and to support the Rainbow Laces campaign.  In sport, like in business, diversity is what pushes us forward into new, and better places. Rainbow Laces allows people to stand up in support; to be an active ally and to say that all people – lesbian, gay, bi or trans – are welcome in sport.’

Jamie Feldman, Club Secretary, Stonewall FC, said: ‘Stonewall FC is thrilled to have TeamPride as our principal sponsor. We hope that together, under the TeamPride banner, we are able to eradicate all forms of discrimination in sport, particularly at the grass-roots football level that we play in. Having the TeamPride logo prominently displayed across our shirts will greatly increase the awareness of the campaign, and we are delighted to be involved.’