Sports Gazette

by sports journalism students at St Mary's University, London

Rainbow laces: Premier league players can do more

Posted on 1 December 2017 by Danny Ruddock

On the 28th  November, after 20 attempts, Australia passed a same sex marriage bill. On the 16th  November, 2015 Ireland did the same.

Days like these make you think the world has changed. It has moved on from long held, conservative ideals, that serve to restrict people and make them feel isolated in society.

The changing world though, does not seem to be able to fully penetrate the hallowed world of football culture

Stonewall, founded in 1989, work to help people in the LGBT community, and in recent years have ran a rainbow laces week (24th November – 3rd December).

Their slogan is simple: “come out for the LGBT community.”

The action is equally simple, they ask people in sport to wear rainbow coloured laces to support inclusivity in sport.

You could see a lot of support during the football on the weekend and in the week, there were rainbow captain’s armbands, rainbow corner flags, etc.

The drive from Sky in particular, was huge, the rainbow flag was on the score ticker, the highlights package and the presenter’s jackets.

It is the right thing, but it is also big corporations wanting to be seen to do the right thing. Sky and the clubs themselves showing they take their corporate social responsibility seriously.

Social media shows that community clubs, like Horsford F.C. in Norwich, have lent their support, there is a lot of positivity.

Embed from Getty Images

The issue is the players themselves. It is not difficult or a big deal for individual players to wear a different set of laces, take personal responsibility, rather then think changing the colour of the corner flag helps.

People react to people, it is individual actions that inspire us.

It was dispiriting to see how few Premier League players were willing to put themselves out there and make a supportive gesture.

There are some who have made the effort since the campaign began, Jamie Vardy, Joey Barton and Phil Jagielka are among those who adorned them in recent years.

But the list is short, and there hasn’t been a noticeable increase in participation since the movement began.

Chief executive of Stonewall, Ruth Hunt, told the Guardian:

“It shows that people understand that people understand that creating inclusive sporting environments is everyone’s responsibility and that making sport everyone’s game can’t rest on the shoulders of LGBT people alone.

“Putting on a pair of laces may seem a small, but for someone who is LGBT it is a powerful sign of acceptance.”

The last part of that statement shows where the player makes the difference.

It is where a young kid struggling with their sexuality, can look up to these guys on one of the biggest platforms for expression the world gives, and see these superstars saying it is okay.

The overall reaction to Aaron Lennon when he came out about his issues with mental health, is encouraging and did prove football is slowly starting to move forward.

Campaigns like these prove that there is still some way to go, and as unfair as it might be to shoulder the responsibility on the players, that is where it lays.

We are still yet to see a professional footballer in the top flight come out, and maybe that is because it is absolutely none of our business.

But maybe it is they do not feel comfortable amongst their fellow professionals.

Clubs do their bit, media do their bit. Until players individually and collectively stand up proudly in support, inclusivity in football will remain elusive.

Photo credit @ Horsford Football Club instagram