Football Unites For Anti-Homophobia Campaign

United Kingdom’s football community seeks to welcome all people regardless of sexual preference in a campaign dubbed as Rainbow Laces initiative.

Justin SetterfieldGetty Images

All teams belonging to the United Kingdom’s football league system have pledged support to an initiative forwarding inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans people (LGBT) in sports.

Known as the Rainbow Laces initiative, the campaign seeks to raise awareness on the inclusion of the members of the LGBT community in sports. It also forwards the importance of combating homophobia in the sporting world.

Scheduled to run from November 24 to December 3, the campaign is the brainchild of Stonewall, a UK-based group for LGBT which forwards equality and promotes acceptance of the LGBT community in England and overseas.

The 92 league clubs in the UK football system is expected to hold various activities and gimmicks in order to promote advocacy, including wearing rainbow-colored armbands and rainbow-colored shoelaces as well as displaying rainbow-colored flags in the football field, among others. The Premier League as told on the EFL official website, meanwhile, has introduced bespoke rainbow branding to its plinths, pitch flags, handshake boards, and timing boards. PGMOL, on the other hand, will also oblige match officials to wear rainbow laces during matches.

It can be recalled that in early August of this year, football referee Ryan Atkin said that he is gay. According to a report by Daily Mail, Atkin is the first openly gay referee and from the time of his coming out, he had received overwhelmingly positive response from the football community.

Atkin said that the Rainbow initiative is a great platform to increase awareness about the LGBT struggle yet he quickly insisted that the initiative should not be used as mere gimmicks of the players or coaches but rather a unifying call for football to be more inclusive to LGBT people.

“Football has a responsibility to create an inclusive environment where gay players, officials and supporters can feel comfortable being themselves. Being forced to hide who you are in any walk of life is a massive drain on you mentally.”

He also urged the players and coaches to use their influence to combat any forms of discrimination against LGBT people.

“Now, we need current Premier League stars to not just wear the laces but use their huge social media followings to actively challenge homophobia. When I was growing up, no one in football was talking about these issues. To have known that I had an ally in the game would have made a world of difference. That is the impact a program like Match of the Day can have by talking about this subject. If it helps just one player, official or supporter gain the confidence to be themselves, it will have been more than worth it.

Rainbow-inspired ties during a press conference
Featured image credit: Marco LuzzaniGetty Images

Atkin’s challenge did not fall on deaf ears as a lot of football players, coaches, and teams took to their social media accounts to support the LGBT in their fight for a more welcoming society, in line with the campaign. Football Association (FA) chief executive Martin Glenn and Greg Clarke even felt proud wearing the rainbow badge during a World Cup match in Moscow on Friday, as reported by Sky Sports.

“We are proud to support Rainbow Laces, as is all of English football. We just felt that, particularly given some of the issues around homophobia in Russia, that we should make a statement. We were actually complimented on it by a whole number of people, so we are glad we did.”

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A lot of these football teams even changed their twitter icons with their team logo customized to the LGBT rainbow colors.

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Regardless of the outcome, the message from all these football groups is clear — they pledge to talk about and combat the walls that make LGBT people feel uncomfortable in engaging themselves in sports. Its larger call is to take a firm stand against any forms of discrimination against the LGBT community.

It may be a simple act but it surely will create an impact in the long run.