Skip to content

Rainbow Laces: Bournemouth's Ryan Christie says players still crucial to campaign as Premier League shows support

Scotland star Ryan Christie says his captain at Celtic, Scott Brown, was an inspirational advocate; Joel Ward to wear rainbow armband for Crystal Palace in Super Sunday game at West Ham, live on Sky Sports; LGBTQ+ fans from Chelsea and Brighton discuss Rainbow Laces on Sky Sports News

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

Bournemouth's Ryan Christie says football needs to 'continue the work' as Rainbow Laces celebrates its 10th anniversary

Players speaking up in support of campaigns like Rainbow Laces is still incredibly impactful, believes Bournemouth's Ryan Christie.

The Scotland international has been reflecting on the 10-year anniversary of the LGBTQ+ inclusion in sport initiative, which is currently receiving its annual activation from the Premier League and its 20 clubs.

Christie's professional career also began back in 2013, and for the majority of seasons since then, his club captain was Scott Brown who would become one of the best-known supporters of Rainbow Laces in the men's game.

Then Celtic skipper Brown appeared on the front cover of Scotland's Daily Record in August 2019 with rainbow facepaint on his cheek. In an interview with the newspaper, he said he wanted to be known as a strong ally to any players who were gay or bisexual.

Later that same year, Brown explained how his best friend's struggle with his sexuality had inspired him to be more vocal in campaigning for LGBTQ+ inclusion, telling Gay Times that for his friend, coming out "was the hardest thing to do in his life."

Talking to Sky Sports about his captain's advocacy, Christie said: "Browny did a big press release up in Scotland supporting the cause and it was amazing from him.

"He was the club captain at the time, so a big figure as the main leader of the boys in the dressing room.

Also See:

"Players like him have such a legacy in football and a big platform. When they do come out and speak, people listen.

"Everybody was behind him at the time when he spoke about it and I like to think we've made positive steps since then, but there are plenty more to be taken."

In recent seasons, Premier League skippers have worn rainbow captain's armbands to provide a visible on-field symbol of Pride.

Arsenal's Martin Odegaard and Manchester United's Bruno Fernandes were among those leading their teams on Saturday to sport the armbands, while special Rainbow Laces anthem boards, flags and ball plinths were also in use pre-match.

Martin Odegaard celebrates scoring Arsenal's second goal
Image: Martin Odegaard wore a rainbow captain's armband in Arsenal's Premier League win over Wolves on Saturday

Christie feels vocal allyship from players can make a big impact too, emphasising that conversations about inclusion - such as those had by Brown - are vital to help the message go further.

"People like us that have got this platform, it's perfect for us to draw eyes towards it and support the campaign," added the 28-year-old, who is set to line up for the Cherries at home to Aston Villa on Sunday.

At the same time, Joel Ward will be skippering Crystal Palace in their Super Sunday game at West Ham, live on Sky Sports.

The 34-year-old took on the Eagles captaincy in the summer having been at the club for over a decade. During that time, Ward has often addressed the role that his strong Christian faith has played in his career.

"I want to be an example," said Ward. "For me, I think it's so important to be inclusive and make sure we have the support of everyone."

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

Crystal Palace skipper Joel Ward says he wants to be 'a light' when it comes to sharing messages of inclusivity

The vast majority of professional players do not wear Rainbow Laces in their boots, but many do show their allyship in other ways, taking part in inclusion-related community activities at their respective clubs.

"Laces are always a tricky one because some people are superstitious about how they wear their boots and what they do," explained Ward.

"It's all down to a personal thing but I know that everyone here at the club will support that community as well.

"We come from a very diverse background at Palace, being where we are in the country, in South London. We touch upon all cultures and I think we are extremely inclusive and the club wants to ensure that whoever walks into Selhurst Park is welcome."

Live Super Sunday

At Stamford Bridge, Chelsea will host Brighton in an encounter that has a significant campaign sub-plot, alongside the intensity of the battle for Premier League points.

Recent incidents of homophobic chanting from some sections of supporters in top-flight fixtures involving both the Blues and the Seagulls have resulted in six-figure fines being imposed by the Football Association.

Wolves were the first club to be punished in this way following incidents at a match against Chelsea at Molineux back in April, with Leeds United subsequently receiving a larger financial penalty after an investigation into their home game with Brighton.

Luton were the next club to be fined after their opening-day defeat at the Amex was also marred by homophobic abuse from a minority of away fans.

Tracy Brown, the chair of Chelsea's LGBTQ+ fan group Chelsea Pride, and Stuart Matthews, her equivalent at Brighton's Proud Seagulls, appeared on Sky Sports News in the lead-up to Sunday's game to talk about tackling anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination in the stands.

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

Tracy Brown from Chelsea Pride joined Proud Seagulls' Stuart Matthews on Sky Sports News to discuss the significance of Chelsea and Brighton playing each other on Rainbow Laces weekend

"We need to be working together to actually change it," said Brown. "Football authorities need to really get a hold of this.

"Fining clubs is good but it doesn't stop fans from doing anything and I think that's where education is needed."

Brown has led on a social media awareness drive titled '#RetireTheChant', explaining why a chant that some opposition fans continue to sing at Chelsea players and supporters is discriminatory.

The slur has also been used against others with a connection to the Blues, such as ex-players and loanees, and some who have been found to have shouted or sung it have been punished as a result of an update in guidance from the Crown Prosecution Service.

It's just one of many developments that have taken place during the 10 years of Rainbow Laces which recognise how LGBTQ+ people are part of the football family too.

The campaign continues to spark conversations that are helping to break down stereotypes about sexual orientation and gender identity.

For Christie, it's an encouraging sign of progress. "There was next to nothing in place [before 2013] so on that aspect, we've definitely taken some big steps.

"The important thing now is to continue the work as players ourselves, as clubs, as a league, and throughout the UK. We've come a long way but hopefully we can keep striving on."

Sky Sports is a member of TeamPride which supports Stonewall's Rainbow Laces campaign, currently receiving its annual activation from November 25 to December 10.

Your story of being LGBTQ+ or an ally could help to make sport everyone's game - please contact us here to discuss further.

Around Sky