Rainbows will be soon be appearing in soccer stadiums throughout the UK.
But instead of being caused by the famous British rain, these rainbows will be part of a nation-wide campaign to raise inclusivity and awareness of the LGBTI community through sports.
The Pride flags are part of the Rainbow Laces initiative, which has been conceptualized by LGBTI rights group, Stonewall.
Soccer clubs will be far from alone – rugby union, cricket, judo, darts, athletics, and netball will also be getting the rainbow treatment.
— Sheffield United (@SUFC_tweets) November 14, 2018
Women’s football has been ahead of the curve, in joining campaign this weekend.
Premier League, Football League, and Scottish Premier League clubs will start implementing the changes following the international break.
LGBTI allies taking a stand
Premier League executive director Bill Bush said: ‘Our clubs do fantastic work to reinforce the message that football’s for everyone,’ the Guardian reported, adding that the organization was ‘proud to use our reach to celebrate Stonewall’s campaign’.
— Kate Howey MBE (@khoweymbe) November 17, 2018
The Football League’s chief executive, Shaun Harvey, said that ‘all 72 EFL clubs are coming together to raise awareness of an important issue.’
‘The EFL continues to be committed to providing a match-day experience that’s safe and welcoming to all,’ Harvey added.
‘We’re hoping the rainbow substitution boards and the conversion of all EFL corner flags will grab the attention of fans up and down the country.’
— AFC Wimbledon (@AFCWimbledon) November 16, 2018
‘It’s great to see UK sports banding together to support LGBT people,’ said Kirsty Clarke, Stonewall’s director of sport.
‘Whether you’re into cricket, darts, rugby, football or athletics, your sport is lacing up. But it can’t just be national bodies making this statement.
‘We need every fan to do the same and commit to standing up as an ally to LGBT people.’
Inspiring 🏳️🌈 #RainbowLaces is about LGBT equality in all sports. Read how referee @HuwWare100 is taking on a role as a diversity ambassador for darts 🎯https://t.co/SUv9m6fTGN @jonboy79 @SkySportsDarts #darts pic.twitter.com/8F0uL1rCn8
— Stonewall (@stonewalluk) November 15, 2018
‘We still hear chanting that is homophobic’
Soccer culture is widely known for having an intolerant attitude to the LGBTI community.
According to a 2017 Stonewall survey, 43% of the LGBTI people polled said they found sporting events unwelcoming.
@PalaceLadiesFC vs @ManUtdWomen. Get down to @bromleyfc to support @stonewalluk campaign. Freedom to be who you are on the football pitch is a beautiful thing.#rainbowlaces@FAWC_ pic.twitter.com/dkvQaVyPAo
— Freya Holdaway (@faholdaway) November 16, 2018
‘We still hear chanting that is homophobic. People don’t understand the harm their words have,’ Joe White, a member of LGBTI soccer support club Three Lions Pride, in a Sky Sports report.
‘We’re fans more than anything else. When we’re at the football, we’re fans first, and we’re LGBT second. All we want to do is enjoy watching our teams play, along with all the other fans.
‘We don’t want to be here having to have LGBT fans groups – but they’re a necessity at the moment.’
Homophobia inherent to soccer culture in the UK has also led to many players to remain closeted, with only very few professional soccer players being openly LGBTI.