Rainbow Laces — making sport for everyone

Mike Clancy · 8 December 2021

At its core, football is about identity. Growing up in Liverpool football and politics define you, along with music. Being an Evertonian is an inescapable part of me, no matter how much it would be better for my mood if it wasn’t! Football dominates when I’m away from work and Everton and the various teams I play for each week, are important parts of my life.

Despite the cliché, there really is a community of football. But communities shouldn’t leave people out, or make them feel excluded. And the reality is that there are many fans who are made to feel like outsiders, or face discrimination, whilst supporting something they love.

That’s why I’m proud to be supporting Stonewall’s Rainbow Laces campaign. Because alongside my passion for football, is my commitment to equality. Bringing people together, making people feel welcome and standing up for justice when things go wrong are what we do every day as a trade union. In Prospect, and our Bectu sector, equality matters to us, even more so given our members include Premier League referees and many others who work in sports.

Discrimination in any form is unacceptable. Combating racism in football, rightly continues to be in the headlines, and players across the world are taking the knee before each match to protest against discrimination. The recent treatment of black England players at the Euros this summer, and other black players across Europe is a reminder of how far we still have to go.

It also shows that we have more to do to make everyone feel welcome whether they are a player or fan, whatever the sport. The rainbow laces, and Stonewall’s new Lace Up and Speak Up campaign, is a great way to focus minds on what this challenge looks like whether you play in local teams like I do, or run one of the UK’s top league clubs.

Despite our progress on equality, the facts still make stark reading. Four in ten LGBT people think that sport isn’t welcoming. 11 per cent of LGBT people have faced discrimination, whilst at a fitness centre or taking part in a group sport in the last year. Discrimination isn’t just about sport, with a TUC survey showing that two thirds of LGBT people had experienced harassment at work.

But there is an appetite for change. The work of our LGBT members in Prospect shows that change is possible with more employers taking discrimination seriously and listening to the needs of their workforce. In sport, Stonewall’s research showed that over half of sport fans who saw the Rainbow Laces campaign last year agreed that more needs to be done to make LGBT people feel accepted in sport.

Unions and football have collective values. Together, at our best we can do so much more when everyone feels part of the team. It’s about community, supporting each other through good times and bad, and, with Rainbow Laces, it’s about making sport for everyone.

Mike Clancy is the  General Secretary at Prospect Union.

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