Sheffield United’s Rainbow Blades look forward to celebrating a year of empowering LGBT+ United supporters to be themselves

Written by Liv Hill

After a year of online socials inspiring members to be more confident than ever in embracing themselves and their love of football, Sheffield United’s LGBT+ and Allies support group approaches its first birthday.

James Laley, the founder of Rainbow Blades launched the group during the first lockdown in April 2020 to create a safe space for fans to come together and talk about football.

It has now reached over 220 members from all over the country but members are yet to officially meet one another. Instead, they meet for online pre-match socials via Zoom, something committee member, Anna Kent said has created a real focus and something to look forward to when life returns to normal.

She said: “As a United fan, the group is not something I would have ever even considered myself but it is one of those things you didn’t know you were missing until you are part of it. It is so nice to talk to like-minded people who have maybe gone through the same struggles of being accepted at a match.”

Around 50% of Rainbow Blades’ members are not LGBT+ but are straight United fans who support the group’s vision and want Sheffield United to be an inclusive place for everyone.

Ms Kent said the support is extremely important for the group because it creates a powerful message when everyone is fighting together for the same cause.

“There are so many people who have now said they would feel confident to wear their Rainbow Blades shirt to matches with pride, which they would never have done before. I would never have done it either, but now I think I would feel confident.”

Rainbow Blades’ first birthday is unable to include the big celebrations they had planned but they will be hosting something on Zoom to bring the members together.

The group are sending out a survey to ask members how they would like to meet up face-to-face when the pandemic restrictions are lifted.

Many of the members want the online socials to remain as well because they do not live in Sheffield.

Ms Kent said: “I think we will continue the online stuff, because me personally I live in Cambridge but we have connected with people all over the country, there is someone from Wales that comes regularly to our socials, and people from London.

“So actually it has been really nice. If we had formed outside of COVID, and we had done just in-person events in Sheffield, there would have been a lot of people who wouldn’t have been able to get involved.”

To become a Rainbow Blades member, visit: https://www.shefflaces.com/rainbowblades

Written by Liv Hill

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