How our local clubs have got firmly behind the LGBT Rainbow Laces campaign . . .
GRASSROOTS football clubs in Gloucestershire and Bristol have continued to colourfully and cleverly back a big anti-homophobia initiative.
The Stonewall charity’s annual national Rainbow Laces campaign, designed to raise awareness and help the drive towards establishing equality and inclusivity for LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) people in sport, has attracted the attention of many individuals and organisations across the region.
The programme, which ran between mid-November and the start of this month, saw amateur and professional footballers and fellow athletes sporting rainbow-effect attire on their boots and arms, whilst clubs and leagues highlighted the campaign in many other intriguing and eye-catching ways in efforts to get the ‘sport-for-all’ message across.
Helen Brain, secretary of Gloucestershire County Women’s League, explained: “All 21 of our teams were supplied with rainbow laces for players to wear during their games.
“We also ran a Twitter competition and the club mentioned in the most tweets along with @gcwfl and #rainbowlaces had the chance to win a rainbow captain’s armband.
“It was about clubs getting creative: for example Bristol and West Ladies planned on baking a rainbow cake to enjoy after a game.
“It is really important in women’s football to have inclusivity, particularly at a grassroots level.
“Attracting players and player retention are among the biggest challenges our teams face. By supporting the campaign we were demonstrating that football is a game which everyone can get involved with.”
Garry Ford, manager of South West Women’s League side Almondsbury Women, explained: “I saw this initiative and automatically wanted to support it.
Why? Because since taking over at this club I have been really passionate about inclusivity.
“There are people within our team with differing sexualities, whilst one member has selective mutism; I have ADHD and there’s a girl who was bullied at school.
“We have played the Paloma Faith song Make Your Own Kind of Music, to send out an emphatic message that we ARE inclusive as for too long people have been segregated in sport.”
Male backing has been very much in evidence too and Greg Dickinson, secretary of Bristol and Suburban League club Bristol Phoenix, enthused: “We have been supporting the Rainbow Laces campaign by asking players from our first and reserve teams to don the colourful laces and share and post social media comments.
“The changing room has had laces added around the place to make players aware of the campaign which has been communicated regularly via member emails.
“In fact our players have decided to keep the laces in for the whole season and continue to spread the message of inclusion for all in sport.”
And Les Lewis, secretary of Marcliff Gloucestershire County League club Broadwell Amateurs, confirmed: “I know a few of our lads used them on their matchday boots instead of on their arms.”
It’s not only the more senior performers who have lent their weight to the LGBT cause.
The recently-formed Shortwood United Youth section have been parading the vivid laces too, prompting their welfare officer Andy Colliver to say: “Our under-14s are at an age and position in their lives when they might start experiencing homophobia, or are maybe thinking about and assessing their own sexuality.
“We saw the campaign as a chance for them to express themselves, so we ordered 14 pairs of Rainbow Laces from Gloucestershire FA for our JPL game with Gloucester City here at Meadowbank on December 1.
“No one was forced to wear them and only one lad didn’t, and that was only because he’d lost them!
“They all took it completely in their stride and it was great to see that this type of thing is becoming the new ‘norm’.”