Stonewall sends rainbow laces to every Premier League footballer to tackle homophobia

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Leading gay rights charity Stonewall has sent rainbow laces to every premiership footballer and professional club in Britain in support of gay players and fans.

The campaign by Stonewall, Paddy Power and the Gay Football Supporters’ Network, is also backed by the Premier League, out German footballer Thomas Hitzlsperger, Arsenal and Man City.

Stonewall hopes to build on the success of the rainbow laces, which in 2013 were worn by hundreds of professional footballers including Leighton Baines, Olivier Giroud and Joey Barton, and saw widespread support from Ed Miliband, the Department of Culture, Media & Sport, Stephen Fry and Gary Lineker.

Ruth Hunt, Chief Executive of Stonewall, said: “We know that homophobia, biphobia and transphobia are still rife in football. That needs to change. Last year’s Rainbow Laces campaign was a great start but there’s still a long way to go both on and off the pitch. The clubs and players supporting the campaign and lacing up this weekend are taking a powerful stand against prejudice in our national game. Our work in sport will continue all year round, but for this week we need as many people as possible to show their support and get involved.”

Players and fans are being urged to again show their support over the weekend of 13/14 September.

Nick Noble, Premier League Head of Communications said: “The Premier League welcomes initiatives like Stonewall’s Rainbow Laces campaign, that share our objectives of equality throughout the sport. Unfortunately discrimination still exists in society and we recognise football’s leadership role in educating participants at all levels that any form of discriminatory behaviour is not acceptable.”

A television ad will kick-off the campaign, starring Arsenal legends Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Olivier Giroud, Santi Cazorla and Mikel Arteta.

Thomas Hitzlsperger, the only openly gay player to have played in the Premier League, said: “I’m proud to be working with Stonewall on the Rainbow Lace campaign. I want to show that being gay and a professional footballer is something that’s normal. The perceived contradiction between playing football, the man’s game, and being homosexual is nonsense.”

Paddy Power said: “We love football but it needs a good kick up the ass. In many other areas of life, people can be open about their sexuality and it’s time for football to take a stand and show players it doesn’t matter what team they play for. Fans can show their support by simply tweeting using #RainbowLaces, whilst all players have to do is lace up over the weekend of 13 and 14 September.”

Ed Connell, Gay Football Supporters’ Network Chair said: “Last year’s Rainbow Laces campaign successfully highlighted the problem of homophobia, biphobia and transphobia in football in a bold and impactful way, grabbing the attention of the footballing world. However real progress is never achieved with one off campaigns. That’s why the Gay Football Supporters’ Network has welcomed the opportunity to work on this year’s campaign which we believe can bring about real change in the game.”

Stonewall notes that there are 5,000 footballers in the UK, and not one of them is openly gay, “a scenario with odds of over a quadragintillion to one.”

The charity’s research 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.

Rainbow coloured boot 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 and grass-root players will be asked to tweet their support using the official hashtag: #RainbowLaces

The campaign is supported by Metro newspaper, which will only advertise brands supporting the campaign on Monday.

It is also supported by Premier Inn, who are renaming as Premier Out in all communications for the day, HTC/Carphone Warehouse, Playstation, Sega, Relish Broadband, KLM, Heineken, Pepsico,, Dr Martens, BT Broadband / BT Sport, Starbucks, Fiat and Jersey Tourism are just some of the brands involved.

The rainbow laces campaign will be advertised on Pink News next week.