Image of Jess Cunliffe and her partner at a football match

Rainbow Laces: 2023 Jess Cunliffe

Marketing & Communications
We spoke to Jess Cunliffe, a player for the UEA Women’s Team, about the Rainbow Laces campaign.

Rainbow Laces 2023: Jess Cunliffe

We spoke to Jess Cunliffe, a Biological Sciences student at the University of East Anglia and player for the UEA Women’s Team.

How inclusive would you say grassroots football is?

I would say inclusive as I’ve never known anyone to feel excluded.

How much further has football got to go, as a whole, to become a fully inclusive sport?

There’s a lot further to go on stigma and mentality towards Women in the game. Those involved within schemes and Associations are doing a great job at pushing and maintaining representation of Women but more needs to be done to change the perspective and mindset that Men hold against Women who play football. I feel there is still a negative prejudice against Women.

What can people do within the football community to help address discrimination on the pitch and promote inclusion?

Keep stressing the importance and need for campaigns such as Rainbow Laces and ‘this girl can’ so it is exposed to those who hold prejudicial views.

This year's theme for the 10 year anniversary is 'Keep It Up', with an aim to keep up raising awareness, keep up supporting each other and keep up pushing to make sure sport is for everyone. What would you like the next 10 years to look like?

Even more support for grass root girls’ teams, more push through academies and better broadcasting around the professional side of games to get better attendance and more support from men.

How do you feel the Rainbow Laces campaign supports you as an LGBTQ+ person involved in football, or the LGBTQ+ community in general?

It’s a nice touch, I feel some people are wary or even afraid and embarrassed these days of the rainbow, as any sort of expression could give the wrong message for that person. But seeing other straight teammates embracing and proudly lacing up their boots in the rainbow laces makes me proud to be gay and makes me feel supported. As a whole for football, I think it’s a great reminder that the LGBTQ+ community, stereotypically or not, is a big part of women’s football and shows others that football will always be a safe space for those who are a part of the LBGTQ+ community.

How diverse do you think football is?

I feel a lot more can be done for diversity, from my own team all the way to professional teams there isn’t much representation of other ethnicities however at UEA I feel everyone has an equal opportunity to get involved with football.

To read more about the Rainbow Laces campaign, please click here.