2014 #RainbowLaces campaign
29 September 2014
Last year Paddy Power and gay rights charity Stonewall joined forces to develop the rainbow laces campaign. The idea behind the campaign is to highlight the fact that there are over 5,000 professional male players in UK and Irish football and not one of them is out as a gay man. The odds of none of them being gay are so infinitesimally small as to be impossible.
The campaign also aims to highlight the fact that homophobia on the stands, in the changing rooms and in the boardrooms is still present and unacceptable.
Finally, the aim is to engender an atmosphere were a gay player would feel comfortable coming out. The campaign will have succeeded when a gay player comes out and nobody cares.
In 2013 the campaign used the Right Behind Gay Footballers #RBGF slogan and hashtag. It proved controversial with some finding it offensive, others clunky, and some a bit of cheekiness which helped to get the message across. It is maybe because of the controversial nature of the slogan that the campaign was a success, despite some in the media criticising it for being last minute and badly organised. It was unfair, however, for professional clubs to complain about lack of involvement in the planning when most have been approached by gay football campaigning organisations or local gay teams and for years ignored them.
The campaign returned in September 2014 with a huge promotion in Metro newspaper, lots of PR, more rainbow laces being sent to professional, gay and other amateur clubs, the support of lots of companies and an increasing number of straight grassroots teams lacing up.
The new slogan #RainbowLaces worked far better by offending nobody and doing exactly what it says on the tin. Paddy Power continued to hugely support. Arsenal and Man City laced up for their match on the Saturday and Arsenal gave away a free pair of laces with every sale in their shop.
At grassroots level more teams were lacing up and promoting the fact on their social media, and at our invitation our opposition that weekend in the Manchester Accountants League, Saints, were delighted to join us.
We all know that there is still racism in football – VMFC players experienced it last season. However, decades of campaigning has vastly reduced its occurrence. The #RainbowLaces campaign, and the work of Stonewall, the various gay football groups and the two dozen gay and inclusive local football teams, will help to reduce homophobia in our sport. No doubt #RainbowLaces will return in 2015 and VMFC will no doubt be supporting.
Who knows, by then one of the many (dozens of? hundreds of?) gay men in professional football will have felt the time was right to come out whilst still playing – and receive the support that those in other sports (diving’s Tom Daley, rugby’s Gareth Thomas) have received. Or maybe nobody will care!
At the VMFC match over the #RainbowLaces weekend, Manchester Accountants League opposition team Saints showed their support for kicking homophobia out of football by also wearing the rainbow laces.
VMFC press release
Village Manchester, one of the leading gay football teams in the country, are throwing their support behind this year's Rainbow Laces campaign.
The campaign, which sees hundreds of professional and grassroots footballers and fans don rainbow laces, was set up to start a national conversation about why out of over 5,000 players there are no openly gay professional footballers – a scenario with odds of over a quadragintillion to one. It also wants to create awareness of homophobia, transphobia, and biphobia in football and to foster a positive atmosphere if a player was to come out.
Last year the campaign, which is delivered by Paddy Power, Stonewall and the Gay Football Supporters’ Network, saw lots of media coverage and this year it is getting even bigger with Premier League support, a spokesperson in the form of Thomas Hitzlsperger and a TV/cinema ad featuring Arsenal players.
The week-long campaign culminates on the weekend of 13 and 14 September and Village Manchester will be doing their bit by lacing their boots up with rainbow coloured laces for their Manchester Accountants League fixture.
Rob McPherson, Communications Officer at Village Manchester, said: "Last year the laces went down a storm and they created an astonishing amount of debate around homophobia in football. It is great that teams like Manchester City and Arsenal are getting involved and I hope that the enhanced involvement of more clubs, players and public figures will further boost the message of the campaign.
"The campaign's theme is 'Change the Game' and by Village Manchester taking part in it I hope we can change the game at the local grassroots level."
Rainbow coloured laces have been dispatched to every single professional player in the UK, including youth and women’s teams, alongside deliveries to all 650 MPs and leading political figures. Fans are encouraged to tweet their support using the official hashtag: #RainbowLaces
Village Manchester are a gay and inclusive club that is open to both gay and straight players. The club has two teams who train every Thursday and play games every Sunday and they are always on the lookout for new players. For further information about Village Manchester please visit www.vmfc.co.uk.
Notes To Editor:
For further information please contact email email@example.com
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Research from Stonewall shows that seven in ten football fans have heard or witnessed homophobia on the terraces and more than 40 per cent believe football to be an anti-gay sport.
During the 2013 Rainbow Laces campaign hundreds of professional footballers laced up including Leighton Baines, Olivier Giroud and Joey Barton, alongside widespread support from Ed Miliband, the Department of Culture, Media & Sport, Stephen Fry and Gary Lineker.
In addition to club, player and fan support, some of the UK’s best known brands are supporting this year’s Rainbow Laces campaign. Premier Inn renamed themselves as Premier Out in all their communications for a day and HTC/Carphone Warehouse, Playstation, Sega, Relish Broadband, KLM, Heineken, Pepsico, Lastminute.com, Dr Martens, BT Broadband / BT Sport, Starbucks, Fiat and Jersey Tourism are just some of the other brands that are also involved.
Village Manchester Football Club are a gay men's football club with ambition and commitment in providing all players and supporters with a competitive, yet fun approach to the beautiful game. Formed in 1996, we meet up every week for training and compete in local and national leagues and also travel to international tournaments on a regular basis. In the summer of 2013 the club became IGFLA European champions. www.vmfc.co.uk
Manchester Evening News article
The Manchester Evening News ran an article based on information provided by VMFC. The article hasn't appeared on their website so we have published it below - no copyright infringement intended.
Rainbow campaign spells bright future
By Alexander Rowen, Manchester Evening News, Friday 19 September 2014
Village Manchester’s Steve Joyce believes German international Thomas Hitzlsperger is right to claim that football is effectively tackling homophobia within the game.
In the wake of the annual #RainbowLaces campaign, the former Aston Villa and Germany midfielder dismissed suggestions that a lack of openly gay players in the professional game meant that football was failing in its attempts to eradicate homophobia.
Instead he described the progress made over recent years as phenomenal and suggested that the work being done continues to encourage diversity and inclusion.
Joyce – whose club Village describes itself as gay and inclusive – revealed that instances of homophobia at grassroots level are now rare.
“Today, grassroots football is not without its prejudice,” he said. “But on the whole homophobic instances are few and far between.
“Over the last 18 years the members of Village Manchester have been perhaps surprised by the minimal amount of homophobia on the pitch.
“Serious homophobic insults, racism and on-pitch threats have happened but been mostly noticeable by their absence, and, when brought to league and FA attention, acted upon.
“The difference now is that there seems to be a real move to highlight the issue nationally and within the professional sphere.
High profile support for this year’s campaign was illustrated by both City and Arsenal, who donned the laces at their Premier League outing last weekend, but Joyce was also delighted to see such support spread to grassroots.
“Most of the country’s gay football teams wore the laces, but this year were joined by an increasing number of their straight fellow teams.
“We were delighted that our opposition Saints joined us in wearing the laces. I think grassroots is more accepting than professional football.”