Stonewall’s Rainbow Laces campaign returns for 10th year ahead of FIFA Women’s World Cup

Stonewall has launched its 10th annual Rainbow Laces campaign, urging people ‘keep up’ the progress on LGBTQ+ inclusion ahead of the FIFA Women’s World Cup. 

Since the colourful campaign began in 2013, more than a million people – from iconic sports stars to grassroots teams – have worn the charity’s rainbow laces in proud support of LGBTQ+ inclusion in sport. 

During its decade-long run, the campaign has become a key driving force for promoting diversity, equality and  inclusion, with Stonewall polling indicating that nearly three quarters of sports fans (68 per cent) now feel a responsibility to stick up for LGBTQ+ supporters of the teams and sports they follow. 

Ahead of this year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup, which kicks off in Australia and New Zealand on Thursday (20 July) and features a record number of out LGBTQ+ footballers, Stonewall launched the 10th year of Rainbow Laces with a simple, bold message: Lace Up to Keep it Up.

As part of the campaign, Stonewall has released a new set of limited-edition glittery Rainbow Laces

The charity is marking the occasion by inviting the world to share short video clips that show what they pledge to ‘keep up’ in support of inclusion

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Inspired by the football challenge of ‘keepy-uppy’, the initiative is a chance for people to show off their skills or commitment, such as keeping a ball in the air, hitting 10,000 steps a day or getting in some morning stretches. By participating in #KeepItUp people will help to raise awareness of the barriers which continue to exist in sport for LGBTQ+ people. 

Liz Ward, director of programmes at Stonewall, said: “Our Rainbow Laces campaign has made an incredible impact in sports inclusion since 2013. 

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“But even today, many lesbian, gay, bi and trans people still don’t always feel welcome in the world of sport. Amidst a global rise in anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment, we need to make sure we all ‘keep it up’ and not let our lead slip.”

Throughout the years, Rainbow Laces has been backed by major brands, clubs and sports organisations, such as Barclays, Premier League and Sky Sports. 

Support for the campaign has also seen London’s Wembley Stadium arches lit up in rainbow hues and just this month the English Cricket Board even added the rainbow flourish to their stumps during the 3rd Ashes Test. 

However, despite strides towards full acceptance and inclusion in sport, there is still a long way to go. 

Recent data from Kick It Out shows reported incidents of discrimination in football is up across the board by 65 per cent, whilst at the same time a number of sporting bodies have taken steps to exclude trans people from taking part in the sports they love. 

Commenting on the importance of ‘keeping it up’, out gay Scottish professional footballer Zander Murray explained he was “terrified” about his teammates finding out he was gay, concerned they “wouldn’t understand”. 

“I wouldn’t wish anyone else to go through this and I simply want to inspire others to be themselves,” he continued.  

“No one should live with fear, because the only thing that should matter in sport is just being good at what you do.”

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Zander Murray in front of an LGBTQ flag
Zander Murray (Gala Fairydean Rovers/www.bonnyriggrosefc.co.uk)

Former footballer and Stonewall ambassador Jake Williamson said: “The question I always ask people is ‘why isn’t there that many openly gay male footballers?’ 

“The answer is because we’re not there yet. Look how far we have come in these ten years. 

“It’s allowed me to be the person I am today, but there are thousands of people out there still denied access to sports, simply because of who they are.”

As an out bisexual athlete, British wheelchair basketball player Jude Hammer said she wants to support other LGBTQ+ people. 

“I want them to know that there is a place for them in sport and that we live in a world where you can be your authentic self and that there are people out there in your corner to support you.”

To find out more about #KeepItUp, go to stonewall.org.uk/rainbowlaces

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