Football stadiums across the UK were just a little more colourful last weekend as the English Premier League Partnered with Stonewall - a UK LGBT+ advocacy group - to promote gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender participation in sport.
The campaign – Rainbow Laces – saw Football Clubs adding rainbows to their social media profiles, stadiums flying rainbow flags and players strapping on colourful laces.
The Football Association, English Football League and Rugby Football Union also participated.
Despite widespread acceptance in UK broader society, Football has struggled with LGBT+ players.
Britain’s first openly gay player, Justin Fashanu, came out in 1990 and suffered homophobic slander – a factor in his suicide in 1998, a coronial inquest found.
There are no top-level openly gay players in UK leagues, although a few have come out upon retirement.
Several openly gay British players – including Robbie Rogers, Anton Hysén and Liam Davis – play in international competitions.
“The Premier League is all about exciting, passionate and unpredictable football that is for everyone, everywhere,” Premier League Executive Chairman, Richard Scudamore said of this year’s rainbow laces campaign.
“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,” he said.
Ruth Hunt, Stonewall’s Chief Executive, said that it was powerful to have support from top-level leagues, clubs and associations.
“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,” she said.
“We know the majority of sports fans want a better, more inclusive game.”
Support at top levels was not always a given, however.
In 2013 a similar campaign failed due to lack of consultation and a divisive name – Stonewall had attempted to get clubs to support a campaign called ‘Right Behind Gay Footballers’.