The award-winning Rainbow Laces campaign, which is backed by Sky Sports as a member of TeamPride, is returning for its annual activation raising awareness around LGBT+ inclusion in sport.
As well as the original rainbow design which was first launched back in 2013, supporters of the campaign will now be able to lace up to celebrate specific identities under the LGBT+ umbrella, including the lesbian, bi, pan, ace, trans and non-binary flags.
The new designs are part of a relaunch for 2020 as the initiative puts an emphasis on the importance of allyship and inclusive communities, with the continuing objective to make sport everyone's game.
Since the campaign's conception, the LGBT+ equality charity Stonewall has sent out close to one million pairs of Rainbow Laces which are available to buy online. This year's activation, which begins on Thursday and runs through to December 13, is again backed by a host of major governing bodies and organisations from across British sport.
Sky Sports, now in its fifth year with TeamPride - a coalition of businesses and brands that amplifies the message of the campaign and also includes adidas, Aon, Barclays, Coca-Cola, and the Premier League - will be sharing stories that reflect both inclusive environments and some of the challenges that still exist for LGBT+ people in sport.
Rainbow Laces continues to change attitudes. Last year, polling from Stonewall found that the vast majority of British people (65 per cent) think it is important that anti-LGBT+ language and abuse is challenged in live sporting events. The positive polling response represents an increase of seven per cent on the same question asked 12 months previously.
Maria Munir, Stonewall's Associate Director of Community Engagement, said: "It's fantastic that we've sent out close to one million laces across the UK and beyond. It shows what a phenomenal symbol lacing up has become for LGBT+ people.
"We also know that the campaign and all of the hard work being done by clubs, teams and managers across the country is making a real difference.
"Our research found that two thirds (66 per cent) of fans feel more confident that reports of anti-LGBT+ language at live sport fixtures will be taken seriously after seeing the Rainbow Laces campaign. We've seen a steady growth in the proportion of fans who would report anti-LGBT abuse online or in stadiums too."
Due to the ongoing impact of the coronavirus pandemic, and the highlighting of social inequalities on a global scale, this year's Rainbow Laces activation will also aim to shine a light on the importance of allyship and community.
In previous years, fans and athletes alike have laced up and put on visible displays of support on the field and in stadiums. With so many restrictions still in place, the 2020 activation will look slightly different, with a greater focus on stories of how sport has helped many LGBT+ people find safe and supportive communities.
As well as the Premier League, the EFL, SPFL, FA and WSL, RFU Women's Premier 15s, Premiership Rugby, the RFL, Great British Racing, Team GB, England Golf, and England Netball are some of the NGBs and organisations who will be bringing the campaign to life both digitally and at events, with support from the campaign's ambassadors, the Stonewall Sport Champions.
"During a year which has exacerbated challenges for LGBT+ communities, sport has become even more important to keep up spirits and provide a vital support system so we can continue to be there for one another," added Munir.
"That's why we're so pleased to be running Rainbow Laces this year, with a real focus on the importance of community and allyship, including in support of LGBT+ people of colour, disabled people, and trans people.
"While the campaign is sure to look a bit different, we're encouraging everyone to lace up with us. From workouts in your flat, to weekly quizzes with your lacrosse team, we're showing up for ourselves and one another.
"Now is the time for every club, team, and individual, from elite to grassroots and community sport, to show their support for all LGBT+ people and work towards truly making sport everyone's game."
Sky Sports is a member of TeamPride which supports Stonewall's Rainbow Laces campaign. If you'd like to help inspire others in sport by sharing your own story of being LGBT+ or an ally, please contact us here.