Joey Barton laces up his rainbow laces
Rainbow coloured laces have been sent to all professional footballers in the UK, with a message urging them to wear the laces to show their support for gay footballers.
The groundbreaking campaign was devised by LGBT rights group Stonewall and bookmaker Paddy Power, who say that the odds overwhelmingly indicate that there must be gay professional players who have not yet come out.
Paddy Power has calculated the odds of there not being a gay player amongst the UK’s 5000 professional footballers to be over a quadragintillion-to-one. (One would be statically more likely to be able to correctly predict the score of 150 football matches in row than for there not be a gay player.)
Despite this there are currently no openly gay professional footballers in the sport in the UK.
The laces have been distributed to every footballer across all 134 professional clubs in the UK. Each player is asked to wear the special laces in their club fixtures on Saturday 21 and Sunday 22 September.
The campaign’s simple message of ‘Right Behind Gay Footballers’ is designed to kick start a change in attitudes and make the game more gay-friendly, said Stonewall.
Fans and the public have been asked to back the campaign by taking to social media and using the hashtag #RBGF, Right Behind Gay Footballers, during the week and in the build-up to the weekend fixtures.
The campaign will this week see daily advertising and editorials across traditional media, billboard sites, and through social media with the aim of getting support from footballers, celebrities, fans and the public.
“It’s time for football clubs and players to step up and make a visible stand against homophobia in our national game,” commented Stonewall Deputy Chief Executive Laura Doughty. “By wearing rainbow laces players will send a message of support to gay players and can begin to drag football in to the 21st century.”
Paddy Power, the bookmaker’s spokesman, added: “We love football but it needs a kick up the arse. In most other areas of life people can be open about their sexuality and it’s time for football to take a stand and show players it doesn’t matter what team they play for.”
Queens Park Rangers midfielder Joey Barton has already espressed his support for the campaign, tweeting: “Show that people’s sexuality shouldn’t be an issue. Join the rainbow laces movement…”
He went on to suggest, “Alternatively, if you have glorious, flowing locks like I do, you can use the laces as a headband!”
According to Stonewall, seven in ten football fans who have attended a match had heard or witnessed homophobia on the terraces. Over half of fans surveyed thought the Football Association, Premier League and Football League weren’t doing enough to tackle anti-gay abuse.