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English soccer, rugby teams wear pro-LGBT rainbow gear

Rainbow Laces has its largest visibility in fight against homophobia in sports.

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Burnley v Arsenal - Premier League
Laurent Koscielny of Arsenal wears the Rainbow Laces Campaign captains armband during the Premier League match between Burnley and Arsenal.
Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Laces, captains and referees armbands, scoreboards, ball holders and even the Wembley arch in London were awash in rainbow colors this weekend in England as part of a sportswide campaign supporting LGBT inclusion and combating homophobia in sports.

Soccer clubs from the English Premier League and pro rugby teams were among the sports participating in the Rainbow Laces campaign, sponsored by the LGBT rights group Stonewall.

Stonewall cites surveys showing 72% of football fans have heard homophobic abuse; 63% of people say more should be done to make LGBT people feel accepted in sport; 63% of young people say that open LGBT players would have a positive impact on the culture of sport; and 55% of sports fans say they wish more sports players felt free to come out.

Openly gay pro soccer referee Ryan Atkin said the symbolism of the campaign is important.

“I don’t think as much education has gone into inclusivity and acceptance,” he said. “We have made great strides when it has come to racism and making sure we treat people from all ethnic backgrounds equally. For me the rainbow laces campaign is about the building blocks to making change.”

Here are some images from the weekend:

London Irish v Wasps - Aviva Premiership
Officials at a rugby match.
Photo by Steve Bardens/Getty Images
Huddersfield Town v Manchester City - Premier League
Vincent Kompany of Manchester City wears the Rainbow Laces captains armband.
Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images
Southampton v Everton - Premier League
Southampton and Everton soccer.
Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images
Crystal Palace v Stoke City - Premier League
Mamadou Sakho of Crystal Palace wears the Rainbow Laces captains armband.
Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images