Since November 22, playing fields and teams across the United Kingdom have added colors to the traditional palette. Pitches, armbands, the laces of soccer and rugby boots and even corner flags and markings have been adorned in rainbows in a determined call to tackle anti-LGBTQ bias in sport.
This week marks the sixth year of the Rainbow Laces Campaign. Organized by Stonewall UK, the campaign is named for something simple but important — The rainbow laces on the shoes of competition, yet the influence toward inclusion only starts there.
Together, we can make football everyone’s game.— The FA (@FA) November 20, 2019
We're once again proud to be supporting the #RainbowLaces campaign in 2019, and have created resources to help you show your support
The Referees' Association supports Rainbow Laces, a campaign by @stonewalluk. We want to make football everyone's game. Show your support on social media using the official hashtags #RainbowLaces and #RainbowLacesDay. ️ pic.twitter.com/xHhd4UFSA6— Referees Association (@RefsAssociation) November 22, 2019
Every level of British association soccer (aka football for the non-Yanks), from the intense spotlight of the Premier League to the down-ladder clubs, took part. The lower-division English Football League made their entire weekend fixture a seemingly endless rainbow. Clubs wore their support on the sleeves, and in some cases, everywhere else.
CFL WIN THROUGH @dannavaro5 guides us through the 120 mins of our #rainbowlaces match in @FA Inter League Cup matchhttps://t.co/wsRDNWh2ya— Cheshire League (@CheshireFL) November 23, 2019
I hope we did @stonewalluk, @Cheshire_FA and @SKkits2 proud today#CFLGBT#proud pic.twitter.com/m4aBN9SCFI
Even those who fans love to hate are on board. Referees laced up, and one of their number was named to a special team. Professional official Ryan T Atkin, soccer’s first out gay pro referee, was named as one of eleven Stonewall Sports Champions by the organization. Others joining him include race walker Tom Bosworth, endurance motorsports ace Charlie Martin, and former Grand Tour road-racing cyclist now-cycling journalist Philippa York.
“If I can be out and proud and that helps others be comfortable with who they are, then I have done my job.” - Stonewall Sport Champion @RyanTAtkin, the first out gay professional referee in men’s football. #RainbowLaces pic.twitter.com/qoWzL6DS5a— Stonewall (@stonewalluk) November 22, 2019
Other sports joined in as well. This upcoming weekend round of Premiership Rugby will feature every team sporting rainbow laces. Scottish Rugby used the moment to aid inclusive rugby team Caledonian Thebans’ effort to bring the 2022 Bingham Cup international gay rugby championship tournament to Scotland.
The loudest expression of the opening weekend came from Scottish professional darts standout Peter Wright at the PDC Players Championship in Minehead, England. Wright’s signature mohawk went full rainbow as did his outfit for the tournament. Unfortunately, the man known as “Snake Bite” got bitten in the first round of the 64-player field.
Making sport more inclusive is about having as many straight allies as possible, who are prepared to stand in solidarity with the LGBT community. I cannot thank @snakebitewright enough for dying his hair and wearing the rainbow colours tonight to stand with the #RainbowLaces pic.twitter.com/2nhWX1PuEL— Huw Ware (@HuwWare100) November 23, 2019