For this year’s Welsh Varsity, Cardiff University and Swansea University teamed up with Welsh LGBT charity Stonewall Cymru in support of their Rainbow Laces campaign to challenge homophobia, biphobia and transphobia in sport.
The Rainbow Laces campaign was launched last year to encourage sportspeople to wear rainbow-coloured laces to demonstrate their support for LGBT participation in sport. The campaign has received support from prominent figures including Stephen Fry, Gary Lineker and Gareth Thomas, as well as from 70 professional football clubs including Arsenal and Manchester City.
Luke Young, the Campaigns Manager for Stonewall Cymru, explained the significance of the campaign: ‘By wearing Rainbow laces at the Welsh Varsity, Cardiff and Swansea students will be sending a strong message to teams across the country that a player’s sexual orientation or gender identity should not be a barrier to taking part and that university sport is open to all.’
At Varsity, student athletes in many sports wore their rainbow laces to show that they support inclusivity in sport, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. Many athletes and clubs posted statements and photos on social media to promote the campaign, often accompanied by the slogan ‘We don’t care which team you play for’.
Speaking before last week’s Varsity event, VP Sports and AU President Bryn Griffiths said, ‘Varsity 2015 will undoubtedly be the climax of the year for Team Cardiff and we’re proud to show our commitment in challenging homophobia, biphobia and transphobia, showing it’s OK to be ‘Out In Sport’. We are working with Swansea University and Stonewall Cymru to help break down some of the barriers that make LGBT students feel excluded or uncomfortable participating in sport.’
Gair Rhydd discussed the state of play for LGBT people in the world of sport in February as part of LGBT history month. There are still very few openly gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people participating in elite sport and it is therefore still often seen as a taboo subject. This makes it much harder for those competing in sport at amateur and recreational level, including university sport, to come out due to fear that there may not be a place for them in the world of sport.
The Rainbow Laces campaign is hopefully making some progress in this area, by helping LGBT allies to show their support and create an environment in which everybody feels comfortable to be open about who they are. By including this campaign as part of Varsity, strides can be made to making university sport a safe and welcoming place for everyone.