With reports of homophobic abuse around football matches continuing to rise, and last year seeing a 9% rise in incidents, SAYiT, a local young LGBT+ people’s Charity in Sheffield, is calling for a halt to such incidents. SAYiT is collaborating with Sheffield Hallam University in a Rainbow Laces event this February to coincide with LGBT+ History month.

Steve Slack CEO of SAYiT said: ‘The Rainbow Laces campaign was created by Stonewall as a way for sports people to show their support for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people (LGBT+) by wearing rainbow coloured laces. Not only have we seen a rise in homophobic incidents around football matches there are still no openly gay male footballers in the top tiers of the sport in the UK. The last player to come out was Justin Fashanu, who came out in 1990 but died of suicide in 1998 after years of homophobic abuse.’

A recent survey of fans who are LGBT+ has found that over 63 per cent experienced incidents of anti-LGBT language last season. ‘The LGBT+ End of Season Survey’ explored the experiences of LGBT+ football fans throughout the 2017/18 season. Respondents recalled incidents of physical and verbal abuse, homophobic and transphobic chanting and other derogatory comments from other fans. The report concludes that clubs, leagues and football authorities to initiate or increase support for LGBT+ people and the establishment of LGBT+ fan groups , providing fans with the confidence to attend games.

The purpose of this event is to raise money for charity, raise awareness of LGBT+ inclusion in sport for fans and for people directly involved in sport who identify as LGBT+. It is also about stamping out LGBT+ phobia in sport and showing it the red card for good.

Research from the LGBT charity Stonewall for their Rainbow Laces campaign in 2018 highlighted a lack of confidence more generally in the UK to challenge anti-LGBT language at live sporting events, with only 25 per cent of those surveyed feeling able to intervene.

James Laley from Sheffield Hallam University said: ‘Homophobia is often referred to as ‘tackling football’s last taboo’ I am a keen football supporter and sadly I witness homophobic chants on a frequent basis which can make LGBT+ people feel threatened and not welcome at football matches. This is why I feel so strongly about the Rainbow Laces campaign and why I wanted to hold such an event in Sheffield. We are delighted to be working in collaboration with SAYiT in organising this event. Please show your support and sign up a team. You don’t have to be a great football player – it’s all about showing your support for LGBT+ rights and also having some fun. The tournament is for over 18s only and mixed gender teams are encouraged.

James Laley (Sheffield Hallam University)

‘We also need sponsorship and raffle prizes – so if you can’t provide a team you can help in other ways. We want this to be the biggest Rainbow Laces event ever seen in Sheffield. We are also hoping that local football clubs will show their support and backing for this important initiative. Sheffield is quite literally the home of football and Sheffield FC is officially recognised as the oldest existing club in the world. So get those football boots on, come along and join us and we’ll supply you with the rainbow laces.’

Sheffield Rainbow Laces will be held on Saturday 16th February 2019 to coincide with LGBT+ History Month. The tournament will be 5-a-side and held at GOALS on Norfolk Park Road from 1-5p.m. The event is being jointly organised by Sheffield LGBT+ young people’s charity, SAYiT, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary and Sheffield Hallam University.

For more information or to offer sponsorship, raffle prizes or to send messages of support, please email: info@sayit.org.uk or tel: 0114 2412728