Rainbow Laces 2023: Nicol Nicholls
Nicol Nicholls is involved in Norfolk football as a coach, a parent, and an avid supporter of both the Men’s and Women’s teams for Norwich City FC. We spoke to her about her involvement in grassroots football.
What is your favourite memory in Football?
It’s hard to choose just one memory. I loved football as a child, but as I hit my teen years there weren’t really any opportunities for girls’ football at the time. I fell back in love with football when my own daughters started playing. So, watching them being able to play and enjoy football means the world to me. I guess for me, passing my Level 1 Coaching Badge was a very special memory.
How have things changed in the last decade for an LGBTQ+ person in football and sport generally?
I think that through campaigns such as Rainbow Laces, we are seeing a great acceptance of LGBTQ+ people, but there is still so much to be done. I personally don’t feel the need to define myself by my sexuality; I am many things and a member of the LGBTQ+ community is just one of them. I have had people be shocked when they learn that I am bisexual, especially as I am married to a man.
I think it is so important that there is visibility of members of the LGBTQ+ community in sport so that the next generation can see role models and know that all are welcome in football, and sport in general. There is definitely a big difference between the male and female game as many more female footballers are openly gay.
We are seeing change, but I still think there is a lot to be done so that everyone feels safe and accepted in sport.
How far off is grassroots football from being fully inclusive, what would you like to see changed or improved?
I think seeing the support for Rainbow Laces is amazing, but it’s not enough. The campaign only lasts few weeks, but what about the rest of the year? I proudly wear my laces all year round. I would like to see Clubs be more public about accepting players, coaches, volunteers, and officials from the LGBTQ+ community. We are seeing change, of course. A great example of this is TRUK United who are a fully inclusive LGBTQ+ grassroots Club. I believe that it’s not just Clubs that can make a change, we also need to educate players, parents, etc… to ensure that any abuse or discrimination is dealt with seriously. We have a long way before our game is fully inclusive, but we can all be part of the change.
How important is the visibility of positive inclusion, such as rainbow laces, arm bands and flags, in the grassroots game as well as the professional game?
Across the grassroots game, seeing open support of the LGBTQ+ community is so important so that those in the community know they are welcomed, supported, and safe. Especially for young players who may be unsure of where they fit in. I love seeing others wearing their rainbow laces. I wear mine for coaching so that people know that they are safe to be themselves with me.
In the professional game, it’s even more important not because the professional game is more important, but because of the wider visibility. What sort of an impact does it have on those watching to know they are included and accepted? I actually made a comment in the media after the one love armband was banned at the Men’s World Cup as this could have been used as a huge show of support for the community. Allies should be allies not just when it is easy but more importantly when it’s hard. People may say that football is just a game, but it is also so much more, it can be a catalyst for change.
To read more about the Rainbow Laces campaign, please click here.