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Rainbow Laces: Tottenham left-back Ben Davies says open discussions can help create positive change

Ben Davies: "The club and us as players have a platform and speaking about it is the only way forward"; the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium will be illuminated in rainbow colours for their game against Brentford on Thursday

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Tottenham's Ben Davies sits down with Olympic hockey gold medallist and Proud Lilywhites patron Helen Richardson-Walsh to discuss their support for Stonewall's Rainbow Laces campaign

Ben Davies believes being open and speaking honestly about abuse suffered within LGBTQ+ communities can only help the process of rooting it out within sport and society.

The Tottenham left-back sat down with Olympic gold medallist Helen Richardson-Walsh, who also is a patron for Spurs' club-affiliated LGBTQ+ fan group Proud Lilywhites, to discuss their support for Stonewall's Rainbow Laces campaign.

This year's initiative is encouraging people to 'Lace Up and Speak Up', emphasising the importance of holding open conversations in support of LGBTQ+ communities.

The captains of Spurs' men's and women's teams will wear multi-coloured armbands for their upcoming fixtures and the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium will be illuminated in rainbow colours for Thursday's Premier League match against Brentford.

Davies said: "I think it's important that as key figures within our club, as role models to a lot of people and in society, we show that football really is an inclusive sport, that everybody is welcome, and as players, as fans, we have to do our best to make sure those environments are as welcoming as possible.

"I think it's incredibly important that this club supports the Rainbow Laces campaign. The club does some amazing work in regard to tackling all forms of discrimination, be it Rainbow Laces, Kick It Out, be it antisemitism, these things are unfortunately part of our society.

"It goes on, and the best way to stamp it out is to highlight it, to try and support the right causes and make people aware of their biases and discrimination and it's really not acceptable in our society.

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"The club and us as players have a platform and speaking about it is the only way forward."

Proud Lilywhites works closely with Tottenham to help combat issues relating to homophobia within the game and create a safe and inclusive environment for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans fans.

Close up of a rainbow corner flag
Image: Premier League and EFL clubs are supporting the Rainbow Laces campaign

The group regularly runs training sessions and educational workshops for club staff and matchday stewards, with the Proud Lilywhites signature flag on display at all home matches.

Proud Lilywhites membership has grown to over 700 and, in 2018, the group was awarded the Fans for Diversity Award by the Football Supporters' Federation.

Richardson-Walsh said: "It's been a real pleasure and honour to be the patron of Proud Lilywhites. They create a network where people feel included.

"During the pandemic, I think it's been highlighted even more how necessary that is. We've got supporters all over the world and they've been able to come together, to feel safe and talk about football, that one shared love that we all have.

"It's something the club takes incredibly seriously. They do a lot in terms of diversity training for their employees. With the support of the Foundation, they go out into communities and help children which is fundamental to the future of this and it is making a difference.

"'Lace Up, Speak Up' is moving the conversation forward. As football clubs, as supporters, we are getting much better at talking about being inclusive of everybody, but I think we need to take it onto the next step.

"It's also about speaking up when you see something that isn't acceptable and be the voice for those that cannot be that voice themselves."

Noble: The world has changed

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West Ham midfielder Mark Noble speaks with Pride of Irons, the official West Ham United LGBT Supporters Group, during Stonewall's Rainbow Laces campaign

In a sit-down chat with official West Ham United LGBT+ Supporters Group Pride of Irons, long-serving midfielder Mark Noble says he believes football is slowly becoming a more accepting and inclusive environment.

"West Ham has been known, especially now, as a family club, and I think especially since I've been here I think things have changed," Noble said.

"The world has changed now and we have got to show that everyone is included - that's what I think. Especially over the last five years I would say that's really come to the forefront in football especially.

"I think you see the young boy that came out in Australia, I think it was Josh Cavallo. That was a massive step, you see the support that he got. And hopefully, that shows you that players and obviously supporters, that they feel free to express themselves. And if they are gay they come out and say it because that's what we encourage."

In a landmark moment for inclusivity in football, Adelaide United midfielder Cavallo recently came out as gay and is the world's only known out gay male professional footballer currently playing in a top-flight league.

Sky Sports is a member of TeamPride which supports Stonewall's Rainbow Laces campaign, back for its annual activation from November 25 to December 12. Your story of being LGBTQ+ or an ally could help to make sport everyone's game - please contact us here to discuss further.

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