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The England and Wales Cricket Board supports Stonewall’s Rainbow Laces campaign

"Rainbow Laces helps to show that we want to be a sport for everyone," England Cricket Board's Clare Connor said.

By Emily Maskell

Words: Emily Maskell; pictures: Twitter/@ECB_cricket

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) is supporting Stonewall’s Rainbow Laces campaign for the first time during an England men’s Test match.

The campaign that encourages the LGBTQ+ community to participate in the sport will see players wear rainbow laces this weekend (Saturday 27 August) at the Royal London One-Day Cup quarter-finals, The Hundred, and, for the first time, the England men’s team at their Test match against South Africa at Emirates Old Trafford.

“It’s a game for everyone and this is an opportunity to show we want people to come and enjoy the cricket, we want them to come and watch games of cricket, come and play and have the amount of fun that we get as players playing,” Joe Roots, former test team captain, says in a video shared to England Cricket’s Twitter account.

Roots continues: “It’s a game for everyone and it’s an opportunity for us as a team to recognise that, show that and support that, and we’re very proud to do so.”

Previously, Roots confronted Shannon Gabriel who was later charged by the international cricketing body after making an ‘inappropriate comment’ to the England captain.

Roots could be heard saying: “Don’t use that as an insult. There is nothing wrong with being gay,” in response to Gabriel’s outburst.

While the professionals are lacing up their boots with rainbow colours, regional teams have also been offered laces and over 200 clubs have requested their own Rainbow Laces activation pack, Sky Sports reports. 

The Rainbow Laces campaign comes after a new national supporters’ group, Pride in Cricket, which is collaborating with the ECB to make cricket more LGBTQ+ inclusive for players and supporters.

Speaking about the importance of LGBTQ+ representation in cricket, England women’s cricketer Lauren Winfield-Hill says: “I was lucky enough that I always felt able to play cricket as a young girl, but that isn’t always the case for everyone, and we need to work hard to lower the hurdles so that everyone is able to access cricket.

“The statistics demonstrate that an overly high percentage of LGBTQ+ people feel less welcome in sport, whether that be as participants or supporters, and we need to help change that. Rainbow Laces can play an important role in demonstrating to all LGBTQ+ people that cricket wants to welcome them with open arms,” she continues.

The sentiment was echoed by Clare Connor, the ECB’s interim chief executive officer, who states: “It’s vital that the game continues to demonstrate that it is for everyone. Campaigns such as this are about actively supporting participation and inclusivity in cricket for everyone in society.

“Sport has such a power and much of our work in cricket is about bringing communities together, Connor adds. “Rainbow Laces helps to show that we want to be a sport for everyone.” 

This push for inclusion arrives after the recent news that English cricketer Gary Ballance, 32, has apologised to Azeem Rafiq, 30, for the racist language he used against his former colleague while playing at Yorkshire County Cricket Club, Sky Sports reporter earlier this week.

“I did use unacceptable – at times, racist – language. If I had realised how much this hurt Azeem, I would have stopped immediately,” the former English cricketer said.

Responding to Ballance’s apology, Rafiq said that Ballance has been “brave to admit the truth”, adding that he has “done cricket and the fight against racism a great service with these words”.

In 2020, Rafiq came forward with his experiences of racism at Yorkshire County Cricket Club and told MPs last year that English cricket was “institutionally” racist.

The Attitude September/October issue is out now.