By Rebecca MaranoLeeds United have announced that they will be one of the main sponsors of next month’s Leeds Pride.
The festival, which takes place on Sunday, August 5, champions the local LGBT community and had over 40,000 people celebrating on the streets of Briggate last year.
The football club is joining other big-name sponsors like Leeds City Council, supermarket Sainsbury’s and banking giant Barclays.
This is the first time Leeds United have sponsored the festival.
The club has been working with LGBT+ group ‘Marching Out Together’ for the last year in a bid to make the club more inclusive.
Speaking about the sponsorship, managing director Angus Kinnear told Leeds United: “We have enjoyed working with Marching Out Together (the Leeds United LGBT+ fans group) over the last year on a range of initiatives to make Leeds United an LGBT+ friendly club.
“We want everyone to feel included when visiting Elland Road and to know that they will be welcomed as part of the Leeds United family.
“I am so delighted that Leeds United will be joining the celebrations as a sponsor of Leeds Pride this year, it’s a powerful way in which we can visibly demonstrate our support for the local LGBT+ community.”
Stephen Wignall, social secretary for Marching Out Together, said the sponsorship is a huge step in the right direction.
He said: “It’s a massive statement of intent for the club that says we are here for the LGBT community and we’re here for everyone, not just that community.
I’ve always supported Leeds United and to see them support me and give something back to my community means so much.”
Watch Stephen’s full interview for Yorkshire voice here.
Lifelong Leeds United fan, Ben Randall, 23, a graduate from Farnley said: “This is a fantastic example of the club engaging with the local community and showcasing itself as an inclusive institution that’s welcoming to all who share a love of the team.
It’s a real sign that we are a progressive, modern club that is working to shake its outdated outside perception and demonstrate the true, positive values of the staff, the players and the fanbase.”
Director of Leeds Pride, Liaqat Ali, agreed. He said: “The world of football has not been regarded as a natural LGBT+ allay in the past.
This is a fantastic gesture by the club and a sign of its genuine commitment to combat discrimination generally and to engage with the local LGBT+ community.”
Leeds United will also be promoting Leeds Pride week at a home game next season.
However, some football fans believe the club could be doing more.
Thomas Lock, 24, a communications officer from Bradford said: “’It is great that Leeds is sponsoring Pride, but this should be alongside efforts to make actual matches, and football culture more generally, inclusive and safe for LGBTQ+ fans and players.”
Jess Hawkes, 27, a PR specialist from Nottingham said: “Typically, the football industry as a whole has enforced sexist and hetero-normative ideals, whether it be through affiliations with advertising media promoting patriarchal stances, or through the industry’s institutionalised gender bias of the sport.
I think it’s hypocritical then for an industry that as a whole that has promoted or enforced these ideals to now be essentially jumping on the LGBT bandwagon, when it goes against stances they have never previously challenged.
I am not denying supporters and indeed players have suffered homophobia, and of course it is positive that they’re trying to show their support for a worthwhile cause, but perhaps supporting a LGBT cause in a more subtle, modest way would help me assume it is something other than a marketing exercise, focused on nothing more than appealing to the current trend of the ‘conscious consumer’.”
This follows 2016 research by UK LGBT human right’s charity, Stonewall, found that 72% of football fans have heard homophobic abuse while at matches.