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Pride campaigners seek rainbow of support

LGBT awareness charity Chase Pride is encouraging locals to lace up and speak up in support of greater diversity in sports.

The organisation, which is bringing the first ever Pride event to the Cannock Chase area in 2022, is teaming up with local shops and venues to sell rainbow laces as part of a national campaign to eradicate homophobia, biphobia and transphobia in sports spaces for players and fans.

Bella’s Coffee Shop in Market Street, Hednesford, is the first venue to sign up to sell the rainbow laces, but Chase Pride would love to hear from other shops and venues willing to host a box.

Each pair of laces costs £3. As well as raising awareness of the campaign, the sales will help Chase Pride further its educational programme.

The Rainbow Laces campaign was started by equality charity Stonewall to help ensure people who are lesbian, gay, bi and trans feel welcome in sports environments.

Millions of people engage with the initiative every year, either wearing laces or sharing information on social media. A number of sports men and women will show their support this month.

The Premier League and EFL were among those kicking off a visible show of support wearing laces at recent games and seven-time F1 world champion Lewis Hamilton made a powerful statement at the Qatar Grand Prix in November by wearing a rainbow-coloured helmet bearing the slogan ‘We Stand Together’.

Chair of Chase Pride, Kathryn Downs, said: “This is a really important campaign with a message that needs to be shared.

“Sport should bring people together and create a sense of belonging and community through shared passion. It should be accessible to people from all walks of life and LGBTQ+ people deserve to be a part of this. We shouldn’t feel excluded or shut out just because of who we are.

“As a charity promoting greater understanding and inclusivity for the LGBT community across Cannock Chase, we felt this was an initiative that deserved a local voice.”

Kathryn added: “There are still some worrying statistics.”

She said relevant findings included:

  • Research carried out last year by ICM for Stonewall showed that one in five sports fans still think anti-LGBTQ+ language is harmless if it is just meant as ‘banter’.
  • And a recent study found that across Europe, eight in ten (82 per cent) of LGBTQ+ people active in sport have witnessed homophobia, biphobia and transphobia in the preceding 12 months.
  • A survey in 2019 conducted by Out in Sport found a third (33 per cent) of LGBTQ+ people who participate or follow sport are not out to anyone in their sporting life.
  • In 2017, Stonewall discovered 43 per cent of LGBTQ+ people thought public sporting events weren’t a welcoming space for them. (YouGov for Stonewall, 2017).

“This campaign, however, is making a significant difference,” Kathryn added.

The same survey, from last year, showed two thirds of sports fans who saw Rainbow Laces consider they have a responsibility to stick up for LGBTQ+ fans of the teams and sports they follow – an increase on the previous statistic.

Kathryn added: “Whether you’re a team, an individual sports player or a fan, showing your support by sporting rainbow laces can help make a difference.

“The more people who lace up and speak up for LGBTQ+ inclusion, the more chance we have of making sport everyone’s game.”

To find out more about Chase Pride visit www.chasepride.org.uk

To show your support and host a box of rainbow laces throughout December, please email [email protected]