Rainbow Laces: Poll shows campaign impact as Premier League clubs support
Survey finds 65 per cent of British public believe it is important to challenge anti-LGBT language in sport; Graeme Le Saux discusses education and PL's global reach on The Debate
Last Updated: 07/12/19 10:41pm
A new survey shows more LGBT allies are being created in sport, amid another strong display of Premier League support for the Rainbow Laces campaign.
Polling by nfpSynergy for Stonewall, the LGBT equality charity that runs Rainbow Laces, has found almost two thirds of the British public (65 per cent) believe it is important anti-LGBT language and abuse like calling someone or something 'gay' in a derogatory way should be challenged at live sporting events.
The figure, taken from a survey of 1000 people aged 16 or over in Britain, marks an increase of seven per cent from the same question a year ago, indicating a rise in active allies wanting to help LGBT people feel included in sport.
This week, Premier League clubs and their personnel are taking opportunities in and around their fixtures to highlight Rainbow Laces, which is also backed by Sky Sports as part of the Team Pride consortium of businesses, brands and organisations.
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp, Leicester midfielder James Maddison and Tottenham's Christian Eriksen, and match officials were among those to wear the laces on Wednesday night.
Earlier this week, both Chelsea and West Ham issued statements after a number of away fans sang 'Chelsea rent boys' throughout Saturday's meeting between the two clubs at Stamford Bridge. The Chelsea Supporters Trust and Kick It Out called for action to be taken with regards to the homophobic chanting, while LGBT supporters groups Chelsea Pride and Pride of Irons also attempted to raise awareness around why the chant is considered discriminatory.
Speaking on Sky Sports' The Debate show, former Chelsea and England defender Graeme Le Saux - who was the target of homophobic abuse himself during his playing career in the 1990s and 2000s - said the collective will from parts of the game to tackle anti-LGBT discrimination is "a work in progress" and deserves to be applauded.
"It's educational, and that takes time," said Le Saux.
"The confidence in people feeling they can report is really important. It's all the stakeholders working together - the Premier League, fans, players, stewards... everybody's involved in this, and has to be.
"For any form of discrimination, if you're going to deal with it, address it, confront it, you need everybody en masse signing up to the same terms and conditions.
"The FA also has a huge part to play because they have the sanctions and punishments. One is the punishment, and the second is the opportunity to learn."
Former Wolves goalkeeper Matt Murray, a guest alongside Le Saux on The Debate on Tuesday, also stressed the importance of the education work underpinning Rainbow Laces.
"Of course, you don't want to lose your football, you don't want to have that taken away from you," he explained, "but sometimes people say throwaway comments and they don't always realise the severity or the impact it can have to people around.
"What they believe is just a nothing comment is really hurtful. It's really good that it's being noticed - awareness is massive."
Power of the global game
There are still 70 United Nations member states which have anti-gay laws on their statute books. With the Premier League's global reach - it is broadcast in 188 of the 193 UN-recognised countries - the visibility of Rainbow Laces is taken worldwide. A cumulative global audience of 3.2 billion people watched Premier League programming in the 2018/19 season.
Le Saux believes highlighting the campaign is a "delicate balance" for the Premier League and its clubs to navigate when it comes to international audiences, but he commends their willingness to do so.
"People are moving at different paces, and they've come from different places as well," he said.
"You have to allow people to evolve. At the same time, through education and through messaging, you're saying 'this is how we feel about this, why wouldn't this be something that everyone would adopt'?"
He also believes the involvement of players is critical when it comes to making the message go further.
"The power of top athletes promoting something - that trickle-down effect all the way through the game, the grassroots and society, is absolutely fantastic."
The annual activation of Stonewall's Rainbow Laces campaign - which is supported by Sky Sports - is under way now and runs until Monday.
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