Stonewall has teamed up with bookmaker Paddy Power to encourage players to show their support for gay footballers by wearing rainbow coloured boot laces.
The laces have been distributed to every footballer across all 134 professional clubs in the UK. Each player is asked to wear the laces in their club fixtures on Saturday 21 and Sunday 22 September. The campaign’s message of “Right Behind Gay Footballers” is designed to kick start a change in attitudes and make football more gay-friendly.
Paddy Power and Stonewall are asking fans and the public 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.
In August, the Professional Footballers’ Association announced every single footballer in the Premier League and Football League will have to attend a session this season to receive guidance on homophobic and racist language and where banter oversteps the mark.
Stonewall Deputy Chief Executive Laura Doughty said: “It’s time for football clubs and players to step up and make a visible stand against homophobia in our national game. That’s why we’re working with Paddy Power on this fun and simple campaign. 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.”
A spokesman for Paddy Power said: “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. Fans can show they are right behind this by simply tweeting using the #RBGF hashtag whilst all players have to do is lace up this weekend to help set an example in world sport.”
There are currently no known openly gay footballers in the English and Scottish professional leagues.
Former Leeds and US winger Robbie Rogers retired in February, announcing his sexuality and claiming he could not have continued his career due to the “pack mentality” that changes the way footballers behave.
He later reversed his decision to quit the game and signed for the LA Galaxy.
Before Rogers’ revelation, only two footballers had publicly said they were gay.
Justin Fashanu was the first professional footballer in Britain to come out, in 1990, before he took his own life eight years later, aged 37.