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LGBT History Month: “Clubs need to try and educate before the abuse happens,” argues Ellie Yates

LGBTQ+ supporter groups are a core part of football clubs in the UK.

GayGooners was the first LGBTQ+ supporter group in UK football, founded all the way back in February 2013.

This was the catalyst for a population of sports fans to create their own supporter groups, and there are now 52 member groups in the supporter network, Pride in Football.

February is LGBT History Month, with the aim of promoting equality and diversity for the benefit of the public. One woman who is looking to spread this message is Rainbow Spireites co-founder and Birmingham City Women supporter lead, Ellie Yates.

About Rainbow Spireites 

Chesterfield F.C. LGBTQ+ supporter group Rainbow Spireites was co-founded by Ellie and her uncle Darren in July 2023, and how they came up with the idea was intriguingly unique.

Ellie said: “We were on our way back from seeing Belinda Carlisle in concert and we were just talking randomly about the LGBTQ+ supporter groups around and that Chesterfield doesn’t have one.

“Both of us thought instead of just sitting here saying why don’t we have one, we’ll set one up.

“We’ve worked very closely with the club and the trust to put some ideas together we can hopefully get going soon.”

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Support from the fanbase 

Founded in 1866, Chesterfield F.C. are the fourth oldest league club in existence. The Spireites are currently 20 points clear at the top of the National League, and a certain striker is on fire with 20 goals this season:

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When speaking about what the supporters of Chesterfield made of the creation of Rainbow Spireites, Ellie said:

“We’ve noticed that everyone’s been really supportive, from the people working at the club, right down to the supporters.

“I didn’t see any negative reaction to the club tweeting out that we were an official group.

“Unfortunately, we did have one tweet that was unrelated that we had to report, but it was dealt with by the club really well.”

Ellie and the team have been recognised in the ‘Football v Homophobia’ awards taking place at the National Football Museum in Manchester this Friday, nominated in the Non-League Club category.

Message of Rainbow Spireites

Speaking on the overall message and goal of Rainbow Spireites, Ellie wants to make supporting your club more inclusive to everybody, working side-by-side with other local clubs to spread positivity.

“We’re part of a regional alliance of LGBTQ+ supporters group formed by James Laley from Rainbow Blades.

“They do such great work at Sheffield United and we’re rivals on the pitch, but come together off of it.

“We’re all here to help people part of the LGBTQ+ community that might not feel sort of safe going to football games.

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“We’re also there to help them get into football and know there are people like them and that they can go to games and just know there’s someone there for them.”

Homophobia in football

When speaking on homophobia in football, Ellie compared what she’s seen in the men’s game and the differences to the women’s game.

“Everyone in the LGBTQ+ supporters groups for football clubs are doing really great work and I think it’s needed, especially in men’s football.

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“You don’t see homophobia as much in women’s football. Everyone’s very accepting and the women’s players that are out are really good with raising awareness and being comfortable to be out.

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“But I think in men’s football, obviously, it’s a lot harder. There’s always been a stigma around it.

“There’s a lot of horrible comments, chants and derogatory things said about the LGBTQ+ community in men’s football, which is a shame.”

Ellie went on to mention the shortage of professional male footballers coming out. As of last year, only one pro player in the English men’s game, Jake Daniels, has come out as openly gay.

“I think it’s a lot harder for male players to come out because I think the press, for one, would be all over them.

“There’s even the thing whether their own fans would accept them, especially opposing fans.

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“There’s a lot more work to do, but like I say, everyone is doing great work and hopefully we will get to a point where people will be more accepted and just want to watch their football team because they support their football team.

“It doesn’t matter whether they’re gay, straight, bi. They’re a footballer that plays for your team, so why would you not support them?”

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How to address homophobia in sport

Ellie believes the root of this problem is education, wanting more clubs to be active about this topic before incidents occur.

“More education from clubs around LGBTQ+ inclusivity and other areas is needed.

“Clubs need to try and educate before the abuse happens. Education goes on after things have happened and I think if we can try and stop it before it gets to that point, then that’s the aim really.”

What action is being taken?

Last weekend, the EFL launched the first Rainbow Ball in English football. For every goal scored with the Rainbow Ball across the Championship, League One and League Two, PUMA made a donation to an LGBTQ+ Fans for Diversity Fund.

When talking about this initiative, Ellie said: “It’s really good that brands and leagues do initiatives like that and donate to help because that money will go into helping education or reaching out to communities.”

What’s next?

As well as running Rainbow Spireites, Ellie is also the supporter lead at Birmingham City Women, winning the ‘Supporter of the Season’ last season.

She is keen to expand on the work the club is doing to focus on Birmingham City Women.

“We had the game last Sunday dedicated to LGBT History month”, she said.

“We handed out rainbow laces, there were rainbow flags with the club badge in and there were also trans flags around.

“The amount of people taking the rainbow laces was incredible and the day went really well, I hope that support will continue.”


  • Sam Sheppey

    Sam is a 22-year-old award-winning sports journalist from Hertfordshire with experience writing for club media with Stevenage Football Club, magazine articles with Greenways Publishing, and podcasting for talkSPORT and Birmingham City fan channel Blues Focus. Link to portfolio: