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Over the rainbow

Football is a little more colourful this weekend as football clubs across the country wear rainbow laces in support of Stonewall’s campaign to increase visibility and stomp out homophobia in sport.

Football seems to have a particular problem when it comes to LGBT inclusion, currently none of the 500 premier league male football players are publicly out as gay. This is often attributed to the environment and culture among clubs and fans, which is not seen as welcoming.

The organisation Kick It Out (Football’s equality and inclusion organisation) recorded 111 reported incidents of homophobic abuse in the 2017/18 season (an increase of 9%). The also reported on 6 reported incidents of transphobic abuse in 2017/18 while none had been reported the year before. We can hope that the increase is due to a greater likelihood to report incidents, but the stats are still worrying.

That’s why the rainbow laces campaign is so important. It is a small window every year for clubs to say “LGBT people are welcome here, homophobia and transphobia are not”. It is a powerful statement when all players in a club can take to the pitch and show their solidarity with the LGBT community.

But are the fans listening?

Are the fans supportive?

Are some fans more supportive than others?

I took to twitter to investigate.

As well as rainbow laces most premier league clubs have added rainbows to their logos and tweeted about their support for the campaign. This provoked strong reactions from many fans.

I looked at tweets announcing support for the campaign in top 8 clubs in the English Premier league and the top 2 in the Scottish league. I coded the response tweets into Positive, Neutral, Negative and Uncategorised. I then compared the percentage of positive tweets to the negative to find the most supportive online fan base.

Clubs ranked best to worst from twitter responses

1. Liverpool (56% positive, 44% negative, n=55)

2. Rangers (52% positive, 48% negative, n=50)

3. Tottenham hotspur (51% positive, 49% negative, n=53)

4. Arsenal (50% positive, 50% negative, n=50)

5. Celtic (50% positive, 50% negative, n=18)

6. Chelsea (43% positive, 57% negative, n=67)

7. Manchester City (18% positive, 82% negative, n=11)

8. Manchester United (16% positive, 84% negative, n=50)

9. Bournemouth No tweet found

10. Everton No tweet found

Reading the tweets doesn't make me want to be part of their community - when I see such a large proportion of open hostility to LGBTQ+ people it tells me I don't belong in that space. The clubs and fans need to fight to change that. They need to take hard stances against the perpetrators of hate crime and be vocal in their support and championing of diversity and inclusion matters.

It's a pretty bleak picture when the most supportive fanbase still has 2 in every 5 comments wanting the club to stop displaying their support for an inclusive environment. It also makes it easy to understand why many professional footballers must be apprehensive about coming out.

It all underlines the need for the campaign. There are clearly problems among the fanbase with regards to inclusion and acceptance making it all the more important for the clubs and the players to stand up for their LGBT fans and players.

To the football players and clubs speaking up for LGBTQ+ people this weekend and last, thank you. It's important, its appreciated and you will make the sport all the stronger for it.


Method notes:

The responses to public announcement of support were examined. Only replies to that tweet were analysed (ie replies to replies were not examined). Where there was a large number of replies tweets were recorded until the number of positive + negative reached 50.


Positive: A clear message or praise, support or endorsement for the message of the tweet. This included emojis such as thumbs up, hearts and rainbow flags.

Negative: A clear message criticising, mocking, or expressing disgust at the campaign. This included requests for the tweet to be deleted and emojis such as sick face, thumbs down or angry face.

Neutral: Tweets which did not reference the campaign or express opinions about it. Many of these related purely to the game, a previous or hoped for score, eg requests about player lineup.

Uncategorised: The message, tone or content of these tweets could not be determined. This included foreign language tweets,

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