England’s very influential Football Association (FA) has given the green light to fly a special rainbow version of the Three Lions insignia at its first World Cup match.
The World Cup is a month-long soccer tournament which started last week in host nation, Russia.
LGBTI supporter group, Three Lions Pride, will unfurl the banner at England’s match against Tunisia on this evening (18 June).
The Pride group commissioned David Gwinnutt to design the banner. But it needed the FA’s permission for the rights to use the insignia.
‘The FA definitely wants it to be seen and wants us to go,’ Di Cunningham of Three Lions Pride told the Daily Beast.
‘They have endorsed it. To create the banner we had to clear the use of the image’s rights with them. We will also be wearing specially designed scarves with the same design.’
But you won’t see the scarves and banner everywhere because the group only has permission to make a few of them.
‘Both have the FA’s endorsement. It’s a very limited run. We are not allowed to sell them or make any more of them,’ Cunningham said.
‘The FA wants the visibility and association with LGBTQ+ inclusion.’
A dangerous game
Even with the FA’s blessing, Three Lions Pride is taking a great risk unfurling the banner in Russia.
The country has strict ‘gay propaganda’ laws, but also soccer thugs threatened to kill LGBTI fans at the World Cup.
One gay couple has already been hospitalized in Russia, after thugs bashed them in St Petersburg. One of the men suffered a severe brain injury.
But despite the threats, some fans are still risking showing their support for LGBTI rights.
At the Russia vs Saudi Arabia game Alexander Agapov, president of the Russian LGBT Sport Federation, waved a rainbow flag every time his country scored a goal – which was five times.
Cunningham told GSN: ‘Visibility is key – there’s none in the pitch in the elite male game and it’s important too that we’re seen as supporters as well as LGBT+ so we asked artist and gay Man Utd fan David Gwinnutt to design a rainbow England emblem.
‘He wanted to use the 3 Lions. We knew this was a big ask of the FA but they’ve been fantastically supportive and allowed us to use the design on two flags – one of which is in Russia.
‘Another designer, Thierry Courtois, wanted to use the official England crest on rainbow supporter scarves and the FA allowed us a limited run. Some are in Russia but most at home for LGBT Fans around the country to wear for communal screenings of games.
‘We’ll be cautious about displaying the banner, and possibly rainbow flags, but understand we have the support of FIFA and license from the Russian FA – as announced by their Equality Ambassadr Alexei Smertin.’