Rainbow Laces – The Campaign

If you’ve read about the build up to the Rainbow Laces campaign, you’re probably wondering “So what happened next?”. Well here it is:

We start on Saturday 24th November – the day of that unfortunate 0-4 home loss to Manchester City – when nine Pride Of Irons members descended upon the London Stadium at 10:30am (on the day of a 3:00pm kick off). It was an early start but we were full of enthusiasm for what was to come. In planning for the Rainbow Laces campaign, West Ham United had invited POI members to take part in a video they were making to promote the campaign. As a committee, we jumped at the opportunity and on reaching out to our members, we were delighted to see there was appetite for them to step forward and tell their stories.

Myself (Jim Dolan) and POI Treasurer Al Holmes were joined by Richael, David, Claire, Mark, Michael, Andy and (celebrating his 10th birthday that day), Kenzie; a little boy with two dads who, as you will see, is wiser than many grown adults. On arrival we were taken pitch side for a few photos and where the filming started. We moved around the stadium throughout the morning including a stop at the SLO briefing where Al and I gave a short (okay, it was way too long – sorry guys!) presentation around POI, the Rainbow Laces campaign and LGBT supporters in football.

It was a fantastic opportunity for all involved and I would urge you to watch here, if for nothing else but to hear proof that the old “Out of the mouths of babes…” saying is true.

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The next day, another group of POI members attended the West Ham Women’s Rainbow Laces game against Bristol City where they deservedly won 2-0 even if the second goal came from an unfortunate misjudged back pass which a seemingly injured Jane Ross latched onto and calmly slotted away.

The whole team participated by wearing Rainbow Laces in their boots – as did Bristol City – and the club gave away free laces with every match day programme. West Ham Captain, Gilly Flaherty – an out gay woman who made her own video for Rainbow Laces – came over to say hello and stopped for a few photos. It was a fantastic atmosphere and a really cool stadium. Some POI members are already regular attendees but as a committee we are planning to get members together soon to come along soon en masse and cheer on the team!

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Finally to the mens Rainbow Laces match – the home game against Cardiff and a buzzing atmosphere coming off the back of a 0-3 away win against Newcastle United. Once again the London Stadium was lit up in rainbow colours with the club pulling out all the stops to show their support for LGBT people. I was interviewed pitch side before kick off by both the club and the Premier League, the campaign was featured heavily in the programme and the Supporter Liaison Officers were handing out rainbow laces to supporters around the stadium and little Kenzie – the star of our video – was a match day mascot and managed to bag a bunch of player autographs. Capped off with the second win in a row where we scored three goals, it was truly a night to remember.

Now the campaign might be over, but the work never stops. Our thanks go out to everyone involved in this amazing campaign, specifically calling out the staff behind the scenes at West Ham United who support us and our brave and wonderful members.

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Rainbow Laces 2018 – The Lead Up…

Another year and another Rainbow Laces campaign complete and once again there is so much to talk about, but first, what is Rainbow Laces all about?

The campaign is run but Stonewall; the UK’s premier LGBT charity and aims to make sport welcoming and accessible to everyone. By wearing Rainbow Laces in their shoes, sportspeople can show their support of LGBT people and their right to participate in sport without fear of prejudice.

You may remember that West Ham United and Pride Of Irons were in the spotlight for the 2017 Rainbow Laces campaign and a year on, we’re still working together not just to  make this campaign a success, but throughout the season. Showing support for LGBT fans, staff and players.

Let’s start with the club itself and Supporter Care Manager Hugo Scheckter. Hugo joined West Ham from Southampton where he made the decision to come out as gay whilst working within football. The area of player care is a relatively new one in football but worth reading up on to get an idea of why they are so important. As well as joining us in a meeting between POI and the club to discuss the campaign, Hugo appeared on Sky Sports ‘The Debate’ where he spoke openly and honestly about Rainbow Laces. The audio is available as a podcast and I would recommend you check it out to hear a true voice from the club.

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Hugo Schekter on ‘The Debate’ with out referee Ryan Atkin and Liam Rosenior.

So often with LGBT groups – including Pride Of Irons – you see the same faces who run those groups speaking out on behalf of their members. This year we were so fortunate that our members volunteered their time and put themselves out there to bravely talk about their experiences.

Pride Of Irons member Natasha spoke to the Premier League about her experience as a West Ham fan and a Trans Woman. Her video was released on the Premier League website and tweeted out to their 18,000,000 followers on Twitter.

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“As soon as that whistle goes you’ve got 60,000 people praying and hoping for one thing, and that is that we score. That is an immensely strong feeling. You almost feel like a family and I absolutely love that feeling.”

Thank you so much to Natasha for being a voice for so many others. Please take a moment to watch Natasha’s video and comment and retweet it too.

Back to West Ham and West Ham Captain and out gay woman, Gilly Flaherty spoke frankly about being an out player and what it was like growing up knowing you’re different.

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“The main thing is that I’m no different, and you’re no different, whether you are with a boy or a girl. I am still me, and my personality hasn’t changed.”

Check out here video here and send her some love on Instagram.

There’s more to come from the campaign but we’ll leave you to digest this post first. More positive news and info to come in the next post, but for now; COYI!

Pride in London 2018 – A quick thank you.

We will no doubt follow this up with multiple blog posts from those who attended, but for now a quick thank you for all involved.

In the summer of 2015, Pride Of Irons attended our first ever Pride In London. To my recollection, there were seven of us. A year later and we had around fifteen. Last year we had 25 and our club mascot, Hammerhead. The first football mascot to attend Pride I hasten to add. This year? Sixty!

Now it’s true we had wristbands for 90, but given England were playing in a World Cup semifinal, a two-thirds attendance is mightily impressive. Add to that Hammerhead and a ruddy open top, West Ham-branded route master bus and the progress is hard to comprehend.

A few times yesterday I climbed the stairs to the top deck to see the mass of West Ham shirts, the smiles and the rainbow and glitter-painted faces and it brought a lump to my throat.

Thank you, each and every one of you, for giving up your time to come and show your colours and your pride.

In particular we’d like to thank;

Our final shout out goes to Kenzie – the young man who captured the hearts of everyone who saw him – and his two proud Dads Ian and Andy who encourage the little guy to be himself. Kenzie is the little boy so many of us wish we could have been.

A final request please, if you took any pictures of yesterday’s events, we’d really appreciate copies. You can share them with us by emailing them to info@prideofirons.com or tweet us @prideofirons.

Thanks once again and we hope to see you soon.