Rainbow Laces 2019 launches with Stonewall Sport Champions announcement

LGBT equality charity Stonewall's campaign, supported by Sky Sports, receives annual activation from Friday; almost 100,000 pairs of laces sent out in recent weeks

By Jon Holmes, @jonboy79

Sprinter Corinne Humphreys and Paralympic skier John Dickinson-Lilley - two of Stonewall's Sport Champions - were joined by the charity's director of sport Robbie de Santos to talk about Rainbow Laces on Sky Sports News

Football referee Ryan Atkin and racing driver Charlie Martin are among a new group of Stonewall Sport Champions announced for Rainbow Laces.

The award-winning campaign for LGBT+ inclusion in sport - supported by Sky Sports as a member of Team Pride - is receiving its annual activation in November and early December.

Image: The Rainbow Laces campaign aims to raise awareness of LGBT+ inclusion across sport

The equality charity Stonewall, which runs the campaign, has appointed 11 people with different roles in sport to help amplify the campaign's slogan to 'make sport everyone's game'.

They include Atkin, the first out gay football referee in British football; Martin, who has raised awareness of inclusion in motorsport as a Racing Pride UK ambassador and who hopes to become the first driver to race at Le Mans who is transgender; Philippa York, a trans woman who was one of Britain's most successful cyclists; and Tom Bosworth, who holds the world record for the one-mile race walk.

Image: Ryan Atkin initially shared his story with Sky Sports in August 2017, in order to support the Rainbow Laces campaign

Stonewall Sport Champions

  • Ryan Atkin (football referee)
  • Tom Bosworth (Olympic race walker)
  • John Dickinson-Lilley (Paralympic skier)
  • Beth Fisher (sports reporter and former hockey player)
  • Michael Gunning (swimmer)
  • Corinne Humphreys (leading GB sprinter)
  • Amazin LeThi (bodybuilder)
  • Charlie Martin (racing driver)
  • Huw Ware (darts referee)
  • Lizzie Williams (wheelchair racer)
  • Philippa York (cyclist)

This year's Rainbow Laces activation period kicks off on Friday and runs through to Sunday 8 December - with gymnastics, horseracing and golf getting involved for the first time.

British Gymnastics is taking Rainbow Laces to Tokyo at the Trampoline World Championships, while the British Horseracing Authority will be showcasing LGBT role models in equestrianism.

Football clubs across the UK will again be joining in. EFL clubs have been invited to designate a home game in support of the campaign starting from this weekend, while each Premier League club will do likewise on one of the two match rounds in the week starting December 2.

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The Football Association is helping to provide non-league and grassroots clubs with Rainbow Laces, while Scottish Professional League clubs, Cymru Premier clubs, and those in the FA Women's Super League and Championship are also set to participate and engage their fanbases.

Image: Charlie Martin has been competing in the Michelin Le Mans Cup this season

England Rugby is also having a rainbow makeover at the Red Roses' Quilter International meeting with Italy Women in Bedford on Saturday.

Fans, sports leaders and athletes are all playing their part in order to help kick discrimination out of sport. According to Stonewall research, four in 10 LGBT people (43 per cent) think public sporting events aren't welcoming for them.

Image: Tom Bosworth is among the British Olympic hopefuls who will hope to make their mark at Tokyo 2020

Across the country, thousands will lace up for 'Rainbow Laces Day' on Wednesday, November 27, to show LGBT people that they are welcome in sport. Almost 100,000 pairs of laces have already been sent out in recent weeks.

Schools, businesses, clubs and individuals across Britain are also playing their part by 'coming out' active with a week-long series of physical activities to raise awareness of LGBT equality in sport.

Image: Sprinter Corinne Humphreys was a Commonwealth Games semi-finalist last year

Robbie de Santos, Stonewall's director of sport, said: "At a time when society feels increasingly divided, sport has this unique ability to bring people together from all walks of life. That's why it's so inspiring to see more and more sports come together each year to support Rainbow Laces.

"We can't just rely on LGBT people to make sports more inclusive - we all have to play our part. While wearing a simple shoelace might seem like a small gesture, for LGBT people it's a powerful symbol of acceptance.

"If you love sport and care about equality, then join us and take responsibility for making LGBT people feel welcome. The more players, fans, clubs and organisations that stand up for equality, the sooner we reach a place where all LGBT people, from fans to players, are accepted without exception."

The annual activation of Stonewall's Rainbow Laces campaign - which is supported by Sky Sports - begins on Friday, and runs through the first week of December.

Contact us if you'd like to share a story to help raise awareness around LGBT+ inclusion in sport.

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