Stephen Wignall speaks to LUTV.
Leeds United will celebrate the LGBT+ community on Friday with our match against West Ham United dedicated to the annual Rainbow Laces campaign, led by national charity Stonewall.
Ahead of the Premier League fixture a member of Marching Out Together which acts as the club's LGBT+ supporter group, Stephen Wignall, caught up with LUTV to chat about the annual campaign, the importance of receiving support from the club, players and fans and how we can continue to ensure that everyone feels welcome at Elland Road.
"Marching out Together is Leeds United’s LGBT+ supporters’ group, we were formed in 2017 and we’re there to support the LGBT+ community and our allies in making sure that Elland Road is inclusive and supportive of everyone.
"We have been working with the club for the last three years and they have been brilliant, we’ve done loads with them. They were the first club back in 2018 to sign a charter, which was around specific actions we would like them to take and there has been a lot of progress on education for our youth players and the fanbase. One of the main things for us, is in terms of some of the language that is used, for example some people may use language that they don’t see as homophobic but actually the connotation of those words they are using could have a massive impact on someone around them, whether it’s in the stand at Elland Road or at the training ground.
“We also regularly meet with Angus (Kinnear)) which has been great , he has a really open door policy and now we’re in the Premier League the club have also appointed an Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Manager which is fantastic, so we have already had some great conversations around what we can do with Rainbow Laces, LGBT+ history month and Leeds Pride next year.
"It's also really powerful having the players support and backing, we see the visibility of the captains armband and players supporting the campaign on social media and all of the activities that happen around the Rainbow Laces fixtures just shows that players are fully behind the campaign and want to make sure that all fans feel welcome and included.
"The Rainbow Laces campaign has been fantastic for us and it really does make a massive difference, each year we have been able to build on what we’ve done the previous year and get bigger and better. It’s all about visibility and there will be some people who may be nervous about going to a football match because obviously football is still seen as quite masculine and so it’s just making sure people are aware that football is for everyone and everyone is welcome at Elland Road.
"To continue in the right direction it’s really important to have the fans, each club, the FA, and the league all working together, and hopefully that will create an environment where a professional player one day will feel that they can come out. This campaign is not about outing a player, that can only happen when a person is comfortable and ready to do so, but we are promoting a positive message of unity. We need to make it as safe as possible so people feel like they can come out if they’re ready. It will be a really brave step that one player will face one day and I’m sure that whoever that might be would be incredibly nervous about the reaction they will get but I see it really clearly in that if you can play football it doesn’t matter to me or to hopefully any of the fans whether you’re gay, straight or bi – if you can play football for Leeds United and you’re good enough we will get behind you."