UPDATED: Saturday’s home match ended in a 1-1 draw.
When the men from Altrincham Football Club marched onto their home pitch in southwest Greater Manchester, UK, on Saturday, they made history by wearing uniforms the club’s director called “full rainbow.”
“We thought, ‘let’s not do something subtle — let’s do something significant’,” said Bill Waterson, as reported by Sky Sports.
Significant indeed: the colorful change has gone viral and has been seen in headlines around the world, and is believed to the world’s first soccer uniform bearing the six colors of the rainbow that adorn the LGBT pride flag, first designed by Gilbert Baker.
Each uniform, or “kit” as it’s called in the UK, included a logo in place of the club’s sponsor, with the words “Football v. Homophobia,” referencing the anti-bullying campaign of the same name launched by Lou Englefield.
She hailed Alty, as the club is known, for its “bold statement of inclusion” in an interview with Sky Sports:
“Congratulations to Altrincham on having taken this step to visibly reflect the diversity of their local community, and for their year-round work on inclusion, which is letting local people know that the J. Davidson Stadium is truly welcoming of everyone.”
The players traditionally wear red and white stripes, and in a tweet announcing the change, the club declared “Not all stripes are straight.”
“Some of the messages I’ve had from people around the world have been very uplifting.” Waterson told Sky Sports. “There’s a guy in Massachusetts who wrote ‘I wish American sports providers had the guts to do something like this, it’s really incredible’. There’s also been a person who explained they were going through the gender reassignment process, and hadn’t felt able to go to games but now plans to go back. The fact we’re reaching people like that is really quite heartwarming.”
The change in uniform coincides with LGBT History Month in the UK. But this isn’t just a stunt, Waterson told the website. The club has a dedicated Diversity and Inclusion officer and have made it their mission to ensure all fans feel truly welcome, as shown in the other slogan on their kits: “Football For Everyone.”
There have been other rainbow jerseys in soccer before, of course: two Spanish clubs had a rainbow sash design in 2015, MLS teams and TeamUSA have worn Pride shirt numbers, and a group of activists called attention to Russia’s anti-LGBTQ policies by wearing Danish-designed rainbow shirts at the World Cup in Moscow last year. In addition, the All Blacks F.C. added a rainbow to their jerseys last year in the name of supporting diversity.
Alty has also been selling these new specialty shirts to fans all around the world at a breakneck pace. The actual jerseys worn in the match against Bradford Park Avenue Saturday were to be auctioned off to raise money for The Proud Trust, according to Sky Sports.