In November 2019, Stonewall FC, Britain’s most successful LGBT (lesbian, gay, bi and trans equality) football club, made history when it took to the pitch at Wembley Stadium for their game against Middlesex County Football League Division One rivals, Wilberforce Wanderers AFC.

The fixture became the first non-League seasonal fixture to be played at the national stadium and was part of a nationwide promotion for the Rainbow Laces campaign.

Conor Ogilvie-Davidson, a MSc International Sport Management (Online) graduate who now works at the Somerset FA, was part of the working group which helped to deliver the game as part of the wider campaign. That wasn’t Conor’s only involvement in the Rainbow Laces campaign though, with his design skills gaining national attention. Here, Conor reflects on his unique contribution to the campaign…

2019 was the first year that The Football Association assembled a working group to work on the strategy to deliver the Stonewall Rainbow Laces campaign nationally across grassroots football. 

The FA purchased 21,500 pairs of laces and 1,200 armbands which were distributed to the Barclays FA Women’s Super League, The FA Women’s Championship and to grassroots leagues through to all 50 County FAs. Every County FA actively promoted the campaign for the first time and a suite of resources were created for clubs to educate club members and communities about LGBTQ+ inclusion. The resources were available through The FA’s website and all 50 County websites. Here is an example of the page we used on the Somerset FA website:

We also enabled any club, league or individual in the country to use the same platform to create custom social media assets that Premier League clubs and European giants were using; that involved working with their creative team to create the campaign branding showing the partnership between Stonewall and The FA.

I was on the working group, taking what ended up being a leading role with FA staff, and the group collectively decided that we wanted to supplement the laces purchased through Stonewall with custom campaign armbands. I designed these and also asked one of Somerset FAs commercial partners, Discount Football Kits, to print them. I used the Stonewall campaign branding, as well as The FAs branding, to create the armbands which would serve as conversation starters between teams up and down the country. Teams were sent a bundle of a captain’s armbands along with 16 pairs of laces. Referees were also sent laces to wear. 

The armband was seen on televised matches in the Barclays FA Women’s Super League and in a tweet from Tottenham Hotspur. It acted as a fantastic visual tool to help spread the message of the campaign. Several clubs were using them, until football was shut down due to the COVID-19 crisis, way beyond the campaign’s intended dates of November and December 2019. 

To positively influence The FAs activation of this campaign is something I’m very proud of, and to see something that I have designed used in the highest tier of women’s football in the country is amazing. The real impact though I feel would have been at grassroots level, with over 1,000 of these pieces being used in games across all formats of the game; elite and amateur, male, female, youth, disability and small sided – the list goes on!