Swinton Group Top 10 Football Allies 2021

This is a special award to address the urgent work that needs to be done to promote inclusivity for LGBT+ people in football.  In 2021, there is no openly gay player in England’s Premier League and the conversation about LGBT+ inclusion remains a taboo subject for the sport. This award, in association with the Justin Fashanu Foundation, shines a light on allies in the sport who are working to break down barriers to help us reach the moment when footballers can be their authentic selves on the playing field. 

In alphabetical order

CONOR COADY

The Wolverhampton and England has been a prolific supporter of Stonewall’s Rainbow Laces campaign. The celebrated centre-back has said that he would be willing to help any player, were they to approach him about wanting to come out as LGBT+ in the future, saying “I’d advise them to be open and honest and to speak to me whenever you want to speak to me and we’ll go about it together”.

DANNY WELBECK

Welbeck was one of the first Premier League stars to support Kick It Out’s campaign to tackle homophobia in football. The Brighton striker, who featured in a  Kick It Out video to raise awareness of discrimination in sport, says most footballers have heard homophobic, biphobic and transphobic abuse at matches. He has publicly stated his support for LGBT+ equality and has said “abusive chanting is not OK and can affect anyone.” Alongside other Premier League footballers, he has denounced supporters who believe members of the LGBT+ community are not welcome in football.

GARY CAHILL

Gary Cahill believes players would be embraced and supported in the Premier League if they were to come out as gay saying “in every walk of life, people should be accepted for who they are”. The Crystal Palace defender says football players should use their platforms to support LGBT+ communities in life as well as in sport. 

HÉCTOR BELLERÍN

The Arsenal and Spain international has been a long-standing ally of the LGBT+ community and works with Arsenal’s LGBT+ supporters group, Gay Gooners. In 2020, he took part in a Sky Sports special about homophobia in the football industry and urged fellow players to help “break down barriers” facing LGBT+ people in football. 

JAMIE VARDY

Striker Jamie Vardy won the backing of Leicester City LGBT+ fan group, Foxes Pride, for writing a message of support on a rainbow coloured corner flag after scoring a winning goal against Sheffield United in December last year. The footballer left fans in no doubt about his support for LGBT+ inclusivity in sport by writing “Foxes Pride – keep up the good work”.

JORDAN HENDERSON

In December 2020, the Liverpool captain showed solidarity with the LGBT+ community by donning a rainbow coloured armband and tweeting “football is for everyone.” This caught the attention of a 24 year old LGBT+ fan named Keith Spooner who responded in praise of the social media post saying it will help gay football fans. The England star, who is an ally of the LGBT+ community, replied: “You’ll never walk alone Keith. If wearing the #RainbowLaces armband helps even just one person then its progress.”

JURGEN KLOPP

Liverpool FC chief, Jurgen Klopp, is the only Premier League manager known to have taken part in Stonewall’s Rainbow Laces campaign last season. The Premier League winning manager was spotted showing his support for LGBT+ people in football during his team’s  4-2 win over Everton. The former Borussia Dortmund manager has also spoken about his personal support for LGBT+ equality and diversity in sport. 

VOTE FOR Jurgen Klopp

GARY LINEKER

England legend Gary Lineker has long been a supporter of the campaign to kick homophobia out of football and made his support public by wearing rainbow laces on Match Of The Day as far back as 2013! The BBC sports presenter, who is a know ally of the LGBT+ community, has spoken out football players coming out as gay. He tweeted “Hope the gay footballers who may be contemplating ‘coming out’ are encouraged by the groundswell of good feeling towards @TomDaley1994”. He also wore a rainbow ribbon on his wrist while hosting the World Cup Draw in Moscow in 2017. 

VOTE FOR Gary Lineker

GRAEME SOUNESS

The tough talking former Liverpool manager took on the symbolic role as boss of Proud United, a team of LGBT+ amateur footballers from across the UK, as part of betting company Paddy Power’s parade float at Brighton Pride. The Sky Sports football pundit is also leading a new campaign called ‘Come Out and Play’ which looks to create an environment in professional football in which gay players can feel comfortable and safe. 

RICHARLISON DE ANDRADE

Everton star Richarlison is a supporter of the clubs LGBT+ supporters group, Rainbow Toffees and has spoken publicly on his support for footballers coming out as gay. Richarlison said: “We can no longer live as people did 100 years ago. We are all the same and we should be treated the same. Everyone must be treated, first, with respect and equality”. Richarlison, and his Everton teammates, are also supporters of Liverpool City Region’s annual Pride festival.