England cricketer Lauren Winfield-Hill says LGBTQ+ inclusion in sport is a ‘work in progress’

Lauren Winfield-Hil hitting out in cricket

England cricketer Lauren Winfield-Hill has said the presence of Stonewall’s iconic Rainbow Laces at the England Men’s Test match is a “significant move” in the right direction of increasing inclusivity in the game. 

But the Stonewall ambassador told PinkNews she thinks inclusion of the LGBTQ+ community in cricket is a “work in progress”.

The 32-year-old, who is from York and married to rugby league player Courtney Winfield-Hill, said she knows well the importance of using her platform and experiences to “be a role model and make a space for everyone in cricket”, she told PinkNews. 

Winfield-Hill – who also plays for Yorkshire, Northern Diamonds and Oval Invincibles – said she “loved all sports” when she was younger, but went down the route of cricket “because it was such a welcoming and lovely environment”. 

She said: “I played a lot with boys when I was younger and I was the only girl, but my experiences in cricket were so much friendlier than in other sports.” 

But it was when she went to Loughborough University that she began to focus all of her efforts on cricket. 

Lauren Winfield-Hill

Lauren Winfield-Hill. (Photo by Mark Brake/Getty Images)

Cricket body supports Stonewall’s Rainbow Laces

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) is supporting Stonewall’s Rainbow Laces campaign, for the fifth year in a row, in a bid to make “cricket a safe and welcoming sport for members of the LGBTQ+ community”. The iconic Rainbow Laces have become a symbol of inclusion across sport and fitness.

It follows the launch of the ECB’s Raising The Game campaign on 6 July, which focuses on amplifying voices and making cricket a game for everyone. 

Winfield-Hill told PinkNews: “I think it’s important that [the] LGBTQ+ community become visible. 

“I think what you want to get to in an ideal world is a place where it’s not a campaign, it’s just a way of life and it’s accepted and a space for all, all day and everyday. 

“But until we’re at that point it’s important to champion these campaigns and make it at the forefront of what we’re demonstrating as sportspeople, and encourage people to be their authentic selves.” 

The Rainbow Laces campaign fits under ECB’s Raising The Game banner, and from 25 to 28 August players competing in matches will be offered laces to wear. This includes the Royal London Cup quarter-finals, five match days of The Hundred, and for the first time, an England Men’s Test match against South Africa at Emirates Old Trafford.

The Rainbow Laces this year include the original rainbow design, as well as lesbian, bi, pan, ace, trans and non-binary flag laces. 

Alongside offering laces to wear, the ECB has also made Pride flags, bunting and hats available to recreational cricket clubs to help them celebrate the campaign. 

Almost 200 clubs have requested their own Rainbow Laces activation packs so far, according to the ECB. 

Winfield-Hill told PinkNews: “We want to make cricket welcoming for all, but it takes championing the campaign first for it to be who we are, what we do, and for it to be totally accepted, which will allow people to be authentic no matter what space they’re in”. 

Inclusion in men’s sport 

The England’s men’s team, for the first time, have dedicated a Test match to improving visibility of the LGBTQ+ community. At the game beginning 25 August there’ll be rainbow stumps, in-bowl signage, display screen information, and prominent players from the squad will show their support for the cause. 

This inclusion in men’s sport is something Winfield-Hill says is “so important”, adding: “There’s a few more role models nowadays, and especially from the female game across cricket and others sports, but this is not the case in the men’s game across all sports.” 

The 32-year-old reflected on top-flight football player Josh Cavollo who came out in October last year and recently said “no words” could express his disappointment after he was subjected to homophobic abuse during a match. 

She told PinkNews: “Josh made global news and I wouldn’t be surprised if there are potentially males across the country at different levels not feeling comfortable to be themselves yet in that space. 

“Whereas I think the female environment is probably a decent way ahead of the male side in terms of embracing and creating comfort to be yourself, so the men using rainbow stuff is a significant move in terms of it being championed across male and female sport.”

Winfield-Hill told PinkNews she believes women are “slightly more open to being vulnerable”, and so able to be more open in terms of coming out. 

According to Winfield-Hill the inclusion of the LGBTQ+ community in cricket is a “work in progress” although she said she has always had “really positive experiences”, and has been “fortunate to play with wonderful players and clubs”. 

She added: “England’s environment has always been super open and welcoming, but I know that’s not the case for everybody, so you know, it’s still a work in progress and I guess we’re still sort of outnumbered.” 

Lauren Winfield-Hill of Oval Invincibles celebrates during The Hundred match

Lauren Winfield-Hill of Oval Invincibles celebrates during The Hundred match between Trent Rockets Women and Oval Invincibles Women at Trent Bridge on August 17, 2022 in Nottingham. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)

A fan-led supporters group called Pride In Cricket has been created this year, and it’s working with the ECB, which is currently looking to create a nation-wide LGBTQ+ England Cricket supporters group. 

The previous year saw two other fan-led groups – Birmingham Unicorns CC and Graces CC – play in what is believed to be the first cricket fixture between two exclusively LGBTQ+ cricket clubs.

Winfield-Hill said: “We say about cricket being a game for all but it actually has to be, it’s not good just saying it, it really has to represent that. 

“The more people that feel comfortable playing cricket, the more people you’ll get and the standard will go up.”

Lionesses’ impact on sport 

Following England’s Lionesses’ triumph in becoming the Euro 2022 footballing champions in July, Winfield-Hill says they’ve managed to put their sport “on the map”. 

She told PinkNews: “They’ve stolen headlines and it’s on the front of papers, not the back. 

“I think it’s enormous really and a sport like football is huge in the UK, and the fact it’s not women’s football, it’s just football is amazing. 

“The power of female sports getting behind each other is so important.” 

Winfield-Hill told PinkNews a highlight of her career since joining England’s cricket team in 2013, has been winning the England’s Women’s Cricket World Cup in 2017 – a triumph which saw the side beat India at Lord’s Cricket Ground. 

She said: “It was amazing, the crowd… and for it to be at Lord’s in England with all of your friends and family there was just incredible.” 

Championing change 

In a bid to bring about change she wants to see her beloved sport of cricket, Winfield-Hill told PinkNews she uses her platform to tell her story and be “authentic”. 

She said: “It’s having comfort in who I am. I’m at a place where I am [comfortable] now, but it hasn’t always been that way. 

“I think sharing my story, and not living a lie and using my platform and experience in a positive light is important.” 

Winfield-Hill told PinkNews she came out to the public in 2020 when she married her partner, Courtney. 

She said: “Our wedding day was the first time all of our people who absolutely love us and are all here for us, were all there and happy, so beyond that I thought why does it matter what people say?” 

And Winfield-Hill offered advice to others who are considering embracing their authentic selves, saying: “The thought of it [coming out] is always more scary than the reality.”