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Fresh look for Rainbow Laces as call to action goes out across sport

‘Lace Up and Speak Up’ is the key message for this year’s annual activation of the Rainbow Laces campaign for LGBTQ+ inclusion in sport.

The Premier League and EFL will be among the competitions kicking off a visible show of support this weekend, with coverage across Sky Sports.

With a fresh look and focus, the campaign’s central call to action is for athletes, coaches, officials and fans to wear laces while also contributing to conversations that help to ensure people who are lesbian, gay, bi and trans feel welcome and comfortable in their sports spaces and environments.

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The FA Wales used the recent men’s World Cup Qualifier against Belgium in Cardiff as an opportunity to activate Rainbow Laces

Research carried out last year by ICM for Stonewall, the equality charity that co-ordinates Rainbow Laces, showed that one in five sports fans still think anti-LGBTQ+ language is harmless if it is just meant as ‘banter’.

However, the campaign continues to make a significant difference. The same survey from 2020 showed that 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.

12 million people engage with the initiative every year, either by wearing laces, through social media, or by putting on events. As well as a range of different laces designs, there are also pin badges with the new logo, headbands, and captain’s armbands.

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WSL clubs will show support for LGBTQ+ people during their matches in December – in 2020, Manchester United’s Leah Galton wore the laces in her hair!

During Pride celebrations in the summer, England skipper Harry Kane and his team-mate Jordan Henderson were among the players to demonstrate allyship at Euro 2020.

Since then, a combined number of over 200 out LGBTQ+ athletes took part in the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, while Josh Cavallo’s coming out story made headlines worldwide in October and generated thousands of welcoming responses, including from famous figures from across football like Marcus Rashford and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Just last weekend, seven-time F1 world champion Lewis Hamilton made a powerful statement en route to victory at the inaugural Qatar Grand Prix by wearing a rainbow-coloured helmet bearing the slogan ‘We Stand Together’.

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Lewis Hamilton explains why he wore a helmet designed with the colours of the Progress Pride flag at last weekend’s Qatar Grand Prix

Stonewall’s director of programmes Liz Ward is encouraged by the progress around inclusion in sport in 2021 but says there are lingering concerns too.

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.

“Few things bring us together as much as sport, fitness and physical activity,” says Ward,” and it’s inspiring to see so many people, clubs, leagues, gyms and partners come together for Rainbow Laces season. Since the beginning of the campaign, we’ve seen awareness grow and grow, with more than one million laces modelled in boots across the world’s pitches.

“But there’s still a long way to go before every lesbian, gay, bi, trans and queer person can bring their whole selves to the sport that they love.

“That’s why this year we want Rainbow Laces to take inclusion to the next level and start a conversation about what creating inclusive environments for LGBTQ+ people in sport really means.

“Whether you’re a team, an athlete, a fan or a player, your voice makes a difference. Together, we’re urging people to Lace Up and Speak Up for LGBTQ+ inclusion, and truly make sport everyone’s game.”

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EFL newcomers Sutton United is one of over 50 clubs in the English leagues to have its own LGBTQ+ supporters group

Rainbow dart flights and Wembley lights

Since 2016, Sky Sports has been a member of TeamPride – a coalition of organisations that works with Stonewall to amplify the Rainbow Laces campaign. The Premier League, Barclays, Coca-Cola, adidas, TikTok, Unilever and Voltarol are also helping to communicate the message this year.

Steve Smith, Executive Director of Content at Sky Sports, said: “We’re passionate about delivering the drama of live sport and telling stories about the people who make the moments happen.

“We continue to proudly support Rainbow Laces as a member of Team Pride, raising awareness about LGBTQ+ inclusion on and off the field and encouraging active allyship.”

Furthermore, the roster of Stonewall Sport Champions who serve as ambassadors on the campaign has been extended. Joining the group in 2021 are UFC fighter Molly McCann, England Roses netball internationals Stacey Francis-Bayman and Natalie Panagarry, and rugby player Devin Ibanez.

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Racing driver Charlie Martin is among the group of 17 Stonewall Sport Champions

All 20 Premier League fixtures taking place between Saturday, November 27 and Thursday, December 2 will be dedicated to Rainbow Laces. Clubs will show their support through a variety of matchday activities, with branding visible at every stadium, and video content featuring discussion between men’s and women’s players, as well as members of LGBTQ+ supporter groups, focusing on the power of meaningful conversation and allyship.

The Premier League will also launch new education resources for primary and secondary school children. These resources, supported by Stonewall, aim to empower young people to tackle bullying and offensive language.

Premiership Rugby matches, the PDC’s Players Championship Finals in darts, and the England vs Jamaica netball Test series are just some of the events in other sports where the campaign will be activated.

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Alex Dombrandt, number 8 with Premiership champions Harlequins, is lending his voice to the Rainbow Laces campaign

Meanwhile, on ‘Rainbow Laces Day’ on Wednesday, December 8, Wembley Stadium will light up in Pride colours in a show of support from the Football Association.

Watch Sky Sports News on Thursday to learn more about the launch of Rainbow Laces 2021.

Sky Sports is a member of TeamPride which supports Stonewall’s Rainbow Laces campaign, back for its annual activation from November 25 to December 12. Your story of being LGBTQ+ or an ally could help to make sport everyone’s game – please contact us here to discuss further.

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Leverkusen vs Celtic preview: No fresh Hoops concerns

Team news and stats ahead of Bayer Leverkusen vs Celtic in the Europa League group stage on Thursday; kick-off 5.45pm.

Team news

Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou is likely to be selecting from an unchanged group of players for Thursday’s Europa League clash away at Bayer Leverkusen.

The Hoops boss reported no fresh injury concerns since last Saturday’s Scottish League Cup semi-final win over St Johnstone.

Postecoglou explained Tom Rogic and Carl Starfelt are close to a return but will not feature in Germany, while Giorgos Giakoumakis is still struggling with a knee problem.

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Celtic will feel they must get something in Germany

Postecoglou has no plan to be conservative.

He said: “We’ll only learn from the game if we play our football. You’ll learn absolutely nothing if you go out there and shy away from it.

“We can go and be conservative, try and hold on, try and survive, but if we do that we’ll learn nothing. All you learn is that you’re inferior and you don’t believe you can be any better.

“The only way we’ll learn anything in this game is if we go out there and take the game to them. That may be a painful lesson for us all but ultimately it’s a better way for us to find out.

“It may not be a painful lesson, it may show that we’re making a hell of a lot of progress. I’d rather go there and find out about ourselves than just go there and try to survive.”

Group G – State of play

Celtic trail leaders Bayer Leverkusen by four points with two games remaining, but a win in Germany will put them in a strong position to advance via the play-offs at least. Their final group match is at home to Real Betis.

How to follow

Follow Bayer Leverkusen vs Celtic with our dedicated live blog across Sky Sports’ digital platforms.

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Scottish Premiership player of the month for October Jota insists he is not thinking about his Celtic future yet

  • This is only the second European meeting between Bayer Leverkusen and Celtic, with the Germans winning 4-0 on MD2 of this season’s UEFA Europa League.
  • Celtic have lost six of their seven away matches in Germany in the UEFA Cup/Europa League (D1), losing most recently in October 2018 against RB Leipzig.
  • Bayer Leverkusen have never lost a home UEFA Europa League group stage match in 14 previous games (W11 D3) – the most of any side without losing in the competition’s history.
  • No team has forced more high turnovers in the UEFA Europa League this season than Celtic (47), with 10 of those ending in a shot, the most of any team.
  • Bayer Leverkusen’s Moussa Diaby has carried the ball up-field 575m in the UEFA Europa League this season, more than any other non-defender. No player has more assists following a ball carry than Diaby (2).

All the key Europa League dates

Round of 16: March 10 & 17 2022
Quarter-finals: April 7 & 14 2022
Semi-finals: April 28 & May 5 2022
Final: May 18 2022 (Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium, Seville)

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