The theme of this year’s Rainbow Laces campaign is ‘Lace Up and Speak Up’, and as part of it we posed some questions to Norfolk County FA Board Director (Inclusion), Di Cunningham. Di also holds numerous positions within Norfolk Football Clubs and Organisations around raising awareness of LGBTQ+ inclusion and removing all forms of discrimination from within our game.
What is your involvement within Norfolk football? How inclusive would you say it is?
I’m on the Board of the County FA and have responsibility for overseeing inclusion. I’m proud to be part of such a progressive organisation - delivering innovative programmes to engage new groups sometimes alienated from the game in the past, addressing discrimination and actively embedding inclusion throughout The FA. But of course, we can do more and there are communities whose increased participation would benefit us all.
How much further has football got to go, as a whole, to become a fully inclusive sport?
The game environment is much more welcoming and diverse than a few decades ago but racist abuse of players seen on social media and at Wembley recently, the fact that there’s still no out Bi or Gay elite male player in the European top tiers and the sadly enduring nature of the Chelsea Rent Boy chant and homophobic taunting of BHA fans remind us we can’t be complacent.
What are your thoughts on the theme behind this year’s rainbow laces campaign, Lace Up and Speak Up?
The initial campaign was about visible allyship - but rightly we’ve moved on and raised our expectations of allies to be active and challenge abuse when they see it if it’s safe to do that.
I have a sense that much of the homophobic language heard on grassroots pitches is a result of some players (who would never use those slurs in their work or home life) thinking that it’s part and parcel of football. I also think there’s an underlying assumption that it’s ok because no one on the pitch could be LGBTQ+. So, the more we all call out discriminatory behaviour the less there’ll be and ultimately it will mean more LGBTQ+ players feeling able to be themselves.
Find out more about this year’s Rainbow Laces campaign by clicking below.
LACE UP AND SPEAK UP