‘Football needs more Proud Allies’ – Sheffield United’s LGBTQ+ fans group Rainbow Blades launches new campaign

Rainbow Blades have had a big impact at Sheffield United since launching in 2020, with visibility provided by the club, the Premier League, and Sky Sports, as well as support from the FSA and an awards nomination from Football v Homophobia. Now they’re asking for greater allyship in the game, as founder and chair James Laley explains…

By James Laley


James Laley is the founder and chair of Rainbow Blades, Sheffield United’s official LGBTQ+ supporters group.

Rainbow Blades’ vision is total and comprehensive LGBTQ+ equality, diversity and inclusion at Sheffield United FC.

Our mission is to bring the LGBTQ+ communities and allies of Sheffield United together to celebrate the diversity of the club, highlight inclusion, and increase LGBTQ+ visibility – ensuring a safe and inclusive environment for all Blades at a progressive football club.

As Rainbow Blades is now well established having been founded in 2020, and with June being Pride Month, we’re announcing our next venture – the launch of Proud Allies.

It’s an allies campaign that seeks to make a difference not just at Bramall Lane but throughout football as one collective family.

The aim of Proud Allies is to increase awareness of allyship, why it’s needed, and to expand the base of visible allies around our club and beyond.

All new members will receive a digital Rainbow Blades Allyship booklet, and, in addition, campaign pin badges will be on sale through the group’s website, with a ยฃ1 donation from every sale going to our charity partner, SAYiT.

We’ve also released a video featuring members and other allies speaking on the topic of allyship, recorded outside Bramall Lane.

Allies of LGBTQ+ people should never underestimate the significant difference they can make to LGBTQ+ people’s lives through positive support. This involves recognising that individuals deserve respect and equality and can be themselves openly and honestly with their friends, colleagues, and family without fear of their reactions.

Our campaign lead, Anna Kent, says: “It’s so important that we work with groups linked with the club, around the city, and beyond to highlight the importance of LGBTQ+ allyship.

“Our voice is so much stronger when we stand together. It’s wonderful that almost half of our Rainbow Blades membership of over 200 people are straight allies. We’d love this to be more than half! Our work will continue until every Sheffield United fan feels confident to be themselves at Bramall Lane.”

One of the things many LGBTQ+ people find most difficult, especially early on in their lives, is the need to keep ‘coming out’, i.e. telling another person, family, friend, colleague, acquaintance etc that they are an LGBTQ+ person. It takes courage and resilience to be so open, especially as others can be less accepting and even actively discouraging.

The growing number of vocal, active allies have helped to transform the experiences of LGBTQ+ people – you should never underestimate what you give to LGBTQ+ people by advocating for us.

Amy Hood is the EMPOWER LGBTQ+ Coordinator at Sheffield United…

The Rainbow Blades Allies Campaign is incredibly powerful and it’s an initiative that has the potential to make a real impact and kickstart change both down at The Lane and in the football community as a whole. The work Rainbow Blades has done over the last year has been unbelievable and the Allies Campaign is just another amazing piece of work they have put together.

Football is all about being for everyone, and having as many Allies on board as possible will ensure football can be reached by everyone – including the LGBT+ community. The Allies campaign will be so influential in raising awareness of how to be inclusive to everyone and give opportunities for every Sheffield United fan to be a part of the family down at Bramall Lane without feeling uncomfortable or excluded.

Amy Hood

The campaign launches on Monday, June 14, and we’ll be actively encouraging as many people and groups as possible to post pledges on social media with our graphic and the hashtag #ProudAlly. We’ll also be launching our Proud Allies film.

This new campaign is another vitally important part of what Rainbow Blades does and what our group is all about. It isn’t just a flash in the pan. We want this to have longevity and to work in tandem with Rainbow Blades. We want to be able to empower and give confidence to all Sheffield United fans to be Proud Allies.

Sheffield United fans are a family and we should all stand together – United for all.

How can people get involved?

Our thanks to James and good luck to all at Rainbow Blades for the campaign!


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