Tuesday Team Talk: Rainbow laces – A faltering step in the right direction for football’s final taboo… homophobia

By James McLaughlin

With the weakness of a Samir Nasri tackle, Premier League clubs have largely sidestepped fully backing a bold – albeit flawed – attempt to boot homophobia out of football once and for all.

Stonewall’s Right Behind Gay Footballers campaign encouraged Premier league stars to don rainbow laces in a show of LGBT-solidarity last week but the campaign has only taken faltering steps towards beating football’s final taboo.

Premier League clubs have mumbled a number of not entirely convincing reasons for not fully engaging in the Paddy Power backed initiative – Everton being the only side to officially back the scheme.

Meanwhile, English giants Manchester United distanced themselves and Manchester City left it to their players’ discretion.

Reluctance to partner with the controversial bookmaker has been a common theme but clubs have also blamed a lack of preparation time due to ‘Paddy Power’ being emblazoned on materials that landed on Premier League desks last Monday.

As Stonewall are swiftly finding out, a week for addressing the bigger issues in football is not very long.

Stonewall, as a small-scale charity, no doubt rubbed their hands with glee at the support of such a powerful and far-reaching partner before shaking hands faster than you can say Suarezgate.

With that kind of backing on the table, who can fault them?

The problem is, Paddy Power’s frosty relationship with football’s head honchos will have had clubs thinking twice before pulling their kitman to one side.

Furthermore, the game’s halls of power are notorious for acting with the pace of a Stoke City counter-attack and Premier League clubs will have wanted longer to liaise with their sponsors and governing bodies.

With rival bookmakers present in many grounds up and down the country, clubs will have been reticent to dive in head-first with a commercially backed initiative without first setting out a larger strategy to distance themselves from Paddy Power.

Stonewall have confirmed that they are now in talks with clubs to explore additional anti-homophobia initiatives and the fact is that this can only be a rainbow-clad step in the right direction.

Building on the exposure of this campaign, they can now explore wider commercially neutral campaigns as long as they seize on this spotlight.

Right Behind Gay Footballers has generated debate over homophobia in football and, even if the controversy surrounding it has slightly overshadowed the bright laces on display, it places a firm stepping stone for the growing wave of support to tackle the ugly side of the beautiful game.

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