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.