The beautiful game is changing

Alexander Smith talks us through how he first started coming to watch the Albion and praises the club’s work with the LGBT+ community.

By Alex Stedman • 04 December 2019

By Brighton & Hove Albion.
Alexander Smith.

I was terrible at football as a child. I grew up in the football obsessed UK of the 80s, where almost every schoolboy played football at break and lunchtimes. That set me apart, marking me an outsider, and I was targeted with homophobic names by the football playing kids. I denied their taunts, but felt shame, knowing that they were right. I was gay.

As I grew older I accepted and owned my sexuality. I also linked football with a toxic, homophobic group mentality. This was compounded by media reports of homophobic incidents at matches around the country. 

Twice in my adult life I have lived close enough to a football stadium to hear the euphoric roar of the crowd and I would occasionally watch games on TV, but I never attended one. I felt alienated from that world.

However, recently Brighton & Hove Albion Football Club invited a mixed LGBT+ group, which included me, to come to a match. My first instinct was to decline. Even as a forty-something, the idea of being amongst football fans filled me with fear. 

Nonetheless, I looked into Brighton & Hove Albion and saw that they have been working with the LGBT+ community. They are signed up to the Rainbow Laces initiative which is run by the LGBT+ charity Stonewall to promote equality in sport. 

By Paul Hazlewood
Albion will be supporting the Rainbow Laces campaign on Sunday.

Locally they have been supporting Brighton Pride, not just financially, the club marches as part of Brighton’s diverse community. They also produce and distribute a thoughtful and rigorous Gender Identity & Sexual Orientation leaflet to their fans, a hugely progressive move for a Premier League club. 

This convinced me to discard my prejudices and accept the invitation. The group met for a drink at a pub near Brighton station, one frequented by football fans. We nervously sipped pints, primed for danger, but nobody gave us a second look. 

My nerves were still jangling as we were herded onto a train, crammed in amongst hordes of Seagulls fans. The experience was cramped, but smooth and uneventful. At the stadium, I noticed how mixed the crowd was. We were sat amongst families and groups of women as well as the expected male fans. 

The game itself was a blast. I found myself glued to the action on the pitch and whooped and cheered at what I believe were the right moments. Once the game started, I was too busy enjoying myself to think too much about where I was. 

I left questioning my own beliefs. While understandable at the time, my childhood prejudice against football – and its fans – had hardened to inflexibility. I feel lucky to have had the opportunity to look beyond my own mindset and see firsthand how Brighton & Hove Albion is breaking down the barriers between the sport and the LGBT+ community.

The club is passionate about engaging LGBT+ fans and making them feel welcome. They have also encouraged their fans to value diversity and equality. If this passes to their children, it will in turn spread to their peers. That is how real change happens – in sport and in society.

This Sunday will see a host of activities set to mark our Rainbow Laces match against Wolverhampton Wanderers at the Amex. 

The match is part of a wider Premier League initiative that will see all our players wearing Rainbow Laces for the fixture. 

Tickets are still available for the game from, with prices starting from £35 for adults and £18 for juniors.

Christmas cracker at the Amex!

The highlight of the pre-match build-up will see the East Stand of the Amex display a sea of colours in support of Rainbow Laces and the wider LGBTQ+ community.

Fans in the East Stand will have a card on their seat to hold up as the teams take to the field, so we ask supporters in this stand to be in their seat at least 20 minutes prior to kick-off. The cards are produced from recycled material, and can be sustainably disposed of after the match.

There will be a Rainbow Laces ball plinth, centre circle crest, and a guard of honour as the teams take to the field, while support for the campaign will be shown on both of the captains' armbands.