Essex football is ‘coming out’ for LGBT+ equality to celebrate Stonewall’s award-winning Rainbow Laces campaign and to be an ally of inclusion, with 21,500 laces and 1,250 captain’s armbands distributed nationally to clubs and leagues to wear at their games.
Thousands of grassroots clubs nationwide, including scores from across the county, are joining the likes of the Premier League, the EFL and the Barclays FA Women’s Super League in support of LGBT+ equality. The campaign kicks-off on Friday 22nd November and runs through to Sunday 8th December, with all 50 County FAs showing support for LGBT+ inclusion.
According to Stonewall’s research, over four in ten LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) people (43 per cent) think public sporting events aren’t welcoming for them. The combined efforts of grassroots clubs and leagues continues to generate awareness of and help tackle homophobia, transphobia and biphobia abuse.
While progress has been made, there is still work to be done to encourage people to be active allies of LGBT+ people and make football ‘For All’. The FA recognises football can play an important role in encouraging everyone to be themselves and creating acceptance in wider society. With this in mind, LGBT+ is a significant focus of ‘In Pursuit of Progress’, their equality, diversity and inclusion plan.
In November 2018, The FA announced a partnership with Stonewall, the UK’s leading lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights charity. This led to Stonewall FC’s Middlesex County League Division One clash with Wilberforce Wanderers AFC being played at Wembley Stadium - the first time a non-league seasonal fixture has been hosted at the national stadium.
The FA continues to be an ally of the LGBT community, supporting the annual Rainbow Laces campaign and delivering ticketing opportunities for LGBT+ fan groups at every England game, while over 50 FA employees and County FA staff took part in July’s Pride Parade in Central London.
Cindi Chatha, Essex County FA Inclusion Development Officer, said: “We’re committed to making the game truly accessible to everyone and we are proud to be able to use football to continue our efforts of creating an LGBT+ inclusive environment within our communities.”
“We are making great strides in this area but recognise there is still work to be done, so we see this as a significant next step to making the game inclusive for all.”
Weekend 1 (Saturday 23rd and Sunday 24th November)
Pope & Smith Chelmsford Sunday League: Astechs Warriors, Chelmer Wanderers, Chelmsford Athletic, Danbury Athletic, Margaretting Sports & Social Club, Queens Park Hannakins, Sparta Broomfield. Also: Junior Red Star
Weekend 2 (Saturday 30th November and Sunday 1st December)
Southend Borough & District Football Combination: BKS Sports, Corinthian ‘B’, Earls Hall United Reserves, Earls Hall United, Pitsea Athletic, Southend Rangers Reserves. Essex Sunday Corinthian League: Abridge Village, Chingford Athletic Reserves, Cobra, Keith Park Rangers, Newham Athletic, Ping City Phoenixes, Roose, United Amateurs. Colchester & District Sunday League: CUSA, Phoenix, Wormingford Wanderers. Southend & Basildon Sunday League: Corinthians, Estuary United, Hullbridge Sports, Rochford Sports, Shoebury Athletic
Weekend 3 (Saturday 7th and Sunday 8th December)
Braintree & North Essex Sunday League: Bradwell Rovers, Dunmow Rhodes, Finchingfield Rovers, Great Bradfords, Panfield Bell, Stisted, Stisted Reserves. Essex County Women’s League: Beacon Hill Rovers, Chelmsford City, Chigwell, Frontiers, Southend United, Tigers. Also: Great Bradfords, United Amateurs Veterans, United Amateurs Under 14s