Manchester United has become the first sports team to partner with Stonewall, in a “ground-breaking” initiative.
The most successful team in British football history announced today that they will work with the charity “to tackle LGBT issues in sport and society”.
After joining in with Stonewall’s Rainbow Laces campaign last year, the club – which is worth £2.2 billion, the third-most in the world – moved to cement its relationship with the charity and the LGBT community.
The partnership will see United’s ground play host to Stonewall’s Rainbow Laces Summit in May, with sports leaders gathering at Old Trafford to gain skills and knowledge for LGBT activism.
It is appropriate that United would be the first British club to partner with Stonewall, considering how iconic the on-field kiss between Gary Neville and Paul Scholes in 2010 has become.
Ruth Hunt, Chief Executive of Stonewall, said: “Manchester United’s support means we can reach millions of football fans both here and around the world, to encourage them to do their part in making all people feel welcome in sport.
“It’s crucial for organisations like Manchester United to show they not only welcome LGBT people, but are active in leading the change.
“At the moment, many LGBT people want to take part in sport, either as players or fans, but the behaviour of a minority can make them feel unsafe, unwelcome or unable to be themselves.
“There’s so much work left to do to ensure that all LGBT people feel able to participate in sport, and we hope to see other clubs take Manchester United’s lead and join the Rainbow Laces campaign to make this a reality.”
The multitude of homophobic responses to the charity’s Rainbow Laces weekend in November showed how much progress is yet to be made in the game.
Richard Arnold, United’s group managing director, said the club “always looks to be a leader in everything it does,” and was “proud” to formalise the partnership.
“The club has an ongoing commitment to equality across all areas and with 659 million followers around the world, it is our responsibility to show support and recognition to everybody who loves this football club,” he continued.
“We have built up a positive working relationship with Stonewall and it’s a great way for us to learn from each other and progress together as we strive for equality for all of our supporters.”
Manchester football clubs have a history of LGBT activism. In 2006, United’s local rivals Manchester City became the first club to join a list of employers which are officially recognised as “gay-friendly” by Stonewall.