Rainbow Laces 2021: Play your part as LGBTQ+ inclusion in sport campaign returns

Since the campaign began back in 2013, Rainbow Laces has started countless conversations in football, rugby and many other sports. As it returns for its annual activation from November 25 to December 12, athletes, coaches, officials and fans everywhere are being urged to lift their voices, share their stories, and inspire others…

By Jon Holmes

Rainbow Laces 2021 begins on Thursday

As Lewis Hamilton’s Progress Pride flag helmet proved at the recent Qatar Grand Prix, rainbows remain phenomenally powerful conversation starters in sport.

The strong show of allyship to LGBTQ+ people from the seven-time F1 world champion provided memorable imagery and made headlines worldwide. It was also the perfect scene-setter for the return of Rainbow Laces.

The Stonewall campaign raising awareness about the importance of LGBTQ+ inclusion in sport is returning for its ninth annual activation, starting on Thursday, November 25 and running through to Sunday, December 12.

Focused in its early years on men’s professional football in the UK, the initiative now encompasses a wide range of sports – backed by governing bodies, organisations and clubs – and resonates with fans across the globe.

Amid training-ground routines and strategy meetings, the matchday action and the post-game analysis, it’s essential that the focus of players, coaches and referees is on getting the right result.

However, we still regularly witness and learn of instances of discriminatory language and behaviour in sport, and we know of the damaging impact this can have on LGBTQ+ people, affecting mental health, self-confidence, and engagement.

Often when you’re lesbian, gay, bi and trans, that part of who you are isn’t visible. Rainbow Laces serves as a simple reminder to our fellow competitors and supporters that we’re here, and starts conversations that ultimately help to make sports spaces more inclusive.

That’s been proven by data generated from the annual activations. Research by ICM for Stonewall showed that two-thirds of sports fans who saw the campaign in 2020 consider they have a responsibility to stick up for LGBTQ+ fans of the teams and sports they follow – an increased representation of active allies compared to previous years.

For 2021, the equality charity is urging more people to get involved, not just by buying and wearing laces, pin badges and rainbow captain’s armbands, but also by being vocal.

Liz Ward

Liz Ward, Stonewall’s director of programmes, said: “We all know how transformational sport, fitness and physical activity can be for all of our health, happiness and wellbeing.

“That’s why it’s so crucial that these benefits can be felt by everyone – and that includes all lesbian, gay, bi, trans and queer people. But we know that too often, LGBTQ+ people are still excluded, bullied or left out when it comes to sports and fitness.

“Every year, the Rainbow Laces campaign is an incredible show of support for LGBTQ+ people in sport. Hearing of all the plans from clubs – big and small – partners and individuals leaves no doubt that this year’s Rainbow Laces will be one to remember, and I absolutely can’t wait for it to begin.”

Following the launch on Thursday, there will be significant visibility on Friday and into opening weekend as Premier League and EFL clubs and Premiership Rugby teams activate the campaign.

Among the top-flight football fixtures will be Liverpool vs Southampton, where fans of the home side are being urged to snap up new Pride flag rainbow scarves carrying the ‘YNWA’ acronym (just £15, with a donation going to the Michael Causer Foundation).

Meanwhile, West Brom have announced that their Friday night home game against Nottingham Forest will feature rainbow towels pitchside to assist Darnell Furlong in his long throws!

There are sure to be many more innovations across the two-and-a-half weeks of Rainbow Laces 2021, with darts, netball, horse racing and golf among the other sports set to get involved whether during major events or at a grassroots level.

At Sports Media LGBT+, we want to contribute more storytelling – and that’s where we need your help.

Whatever our role in sport, it’s hugely empowering when our individual experiences and the way in which they relate to LGBTQ+ inclusion are shared responsibly and effectively. Just look at the impact Adelaide United left-back Josh Cavallo made recently, or any of the Stonewall Sport Champions – all of whom are using their platforms to positively influence their sports.

And as an ally, you can make a big contribution to the cause. Liverpool and England midfielder Jordan Henderson has demonstrated this by wearing rainbow laces in recent months and harnessing his social media platforms to communicate inclusive messages that have a far-reaching impact.

And if you work in media and comms, use your slick skills for good! Offer a platform to someone who can help make sport everyone’s game – or even be a role model.

Order your laces now and get them delivered in time for Rainbow Laces Day on Wednesday, December 8!

To talk to us about Rainbow Laces, contact us here. For forthcoming events, see our calendar.

For more information on the campaign, visit Stonewall’s website.


Sports Media LGBT+ is a network, advocacy, and consultancy group that is helping to build a community of LGBT+ people and allies in sport. We’re also a digital publisher. Learn more about us here.

LGBTQ+ and have a role in sports? Your visibility will inspire other people – sharing your story can be hugely rewarding and you don’t have to be famous to make a positive and lasting impact. We encourage you to start a conversation with us, in confidence, and we’ll provide the best advice on navigating the media as part of your journey so that you retain control of your personal narrative.

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