Leeds United marked the Rainbow Laces campaign in the first week of December, with a series of events which gave strong visible support to the LGBT+ community. Marching Out Together worked closely in the planning of those activities, and we thank the club for its fantastic support.
And we wanted to take this opportunity to share with you the great work that was done to support equality and challenge homophobia, transphobia and bi-phobia…
The Premier League issue a series of instructions to every club to follow for their selected home game - rainbow corner flags, rainbow armband for the captain and so on. Leeds United obviously supported these initiatives, but the significant additional work it did shows that it wants to be at the front of the campaign for LGBT+ inclusion.
A significant and very powerful change this year was hearing members of the team speaking out, as allies, of LGBT+ fans in the ground and in support of any player who comes out whilst playing for Leeds United.
Patrick Bamford, in interviews with Football Joe and on LUTV spoke of the bravery of Josh Cavello coming out recently - and becoming the only openly gay professional male player in the world currently (a fact which is astonishing in itself!).
Luke Ayling (as part of a moving interview with Phil Hay in The Athletic, along with Rodrigo and MOutT member Jen Wilson) spoke of his sadness that a long-standing fan, who is transitioning, no longer feels safe coming to games: “ It’s really sad. It’s 2021 and it shouldn’t be like that. Us boys want everyone at the games. The stands are for everyone”.
Rodrigo (who asked to join the interview with Luke) recognised the enormous media pressure that would be placed on a player who comes out, but like Luke, he said any player who did would receive the support of their teammates: “I don’t think a player coming out would be a problem for other players. Really I don’t. And that’s because it’s not a problem”.
In addition to these important interviews, Liam Cooper tweeted support for the Rainbow Laces campaign saying “football is for everyone”.
Stuart Dallas, Liam & Rodrigo were snapped holding a rainbow flag, and the whole first team (together with the U23s and Women's team) all wore fantastic warm up t-shirts supporting rainbow laces and Marching Out Together. The warm up t-shirts, as Luke pointed out, are more visible to those in the stands, than players wearing laces.
The coaching staff and directors wore Marching Out Together badges, and our ever supportive CEO, Angus Kinnear was seen sporting his rainbow socks and laces at the Crystal Palace game.
Marching Out Together was invited to join 2 podcasts on LUTV, members were interviewed and filmed on the pitch before the Palace game, and we joined the Leeds United Foundation and Luke Ayling in a local school talking about the Rainbow Laces campaign.
We could go on… full coverage in the match day programme, great photo montage from the club on social media, flags on display in the ground, BHA featuring the work MOutT does in a full page match day programme spread... but hopefully you get an idea of how full the support was from a club that is serious about challenging discrimination in the game.
Click here to see the club’s gallery of images from our designated Rainbow Laces match against Crystal Palace.
Progress is being made. The increasingly audible voices of players speaking up in support of LGBT+ fans and confirming their support of any player who chooses to come out really do make a difference in helping change attitudes.
Work still needs to be done of course. Homophobic chanting from a small section of Leeds United fans at the Palace game, and further abuse at the BHA away game shows that some fans still don’t understand or care about the impact of their behaviour on other fans and players. But the club immediately issued a statement condemning the homophobic chanting from the minority, and the voice of the majority of straight allies in the fan base is a more powerful one - giving confidence to people to challenge and report abusive behaviour when they hear it. When people are caught using abusing language, we ask to meet with them to help them understand the hurt they cause; we don’t want fans banned without the chance for them to change their behaviour and attitudes - but the club are ready to take firm action against fans who don’t learn.
Stix Lockwood, a legend within Elland Road over the decades, has been a great supporter of our work. And he managed to get a couple of the exclusive rainbow warm up shirts signed by the first team. At the time of writing we expect to auction one and to raffle one soon to support our fundraising and projects including or LUFC LGBT+ mural.
The work Marching Out Together does with the club continues throughout the year. Rainbow Laces is, along with Pride, a time to showcase the work the club does for the LGBT+ community. And we couldn’t be prouder of the support the club we love has given us again this year.