If you've read about the build up to the Rainbow Laces campaign, you're probably wondering "So what happened next?". Well here it is:
We start on Saturday 24th November - the day of that unfortunate 0-4 home loss to Manchester City - when nine Pride Of Irons members descended upon the London Stadium at 10:30am (on the day of a 3:00pm kick off). It was an early start but we were full of enthusiasm for what was to come. In planning for the Rainbow Laces campaign, West Ham United had invited POI members to take part in a video they were making to promote the campaign. As a committee, we jumped at the opportunity and on reaching out to our members, we were delighted to see there was appetite for them to step forward and tell their stories.
Myself (Jim Dolan) and POI Treasurer Al Holmes were joined by Richael, David, Claire, Mark, Michael, Andy and (celebrating his 10th birthday that day), Kenzie; a little boy with two dads who, as you will see, is wiser than many grown adults. On arrival we were taken pitch side for a few photos and where the filming started. We moved around the stadium throughout the morning including a stop at the SLO briefing where Al and I gave a short (okay, it was way too long - sorry guys!) presentation around POI, the Rainbow Laces campaign and LGBT supporters in football.
It was a fantastic opportunity for all involved and I would urge you to watch here, if for nothing else but to hear proof that the old "Out of the mouths of babes..." saying is true.
The next day, another group of POI members attended the West Ham Women's Rainbow Laces game against Bristol City where they deservedly won 2-0 even if the second goal came from an unfortunate misjudged back pass which a seemingly injured Jane Ross latched onto and calmly slotted away.
The whole team participated by wearing Rainbow Laces in their boots - as did Bristol City - and the club gave away free laces with every match day programme. West Ham Captain, Gilly Flaherty - an out gay woman who made her own video for Rainbow Laces - came over to say hello and stopped for a few photos. It was a fantastic atmosphere and a really cool stadium. Some POI members are already regular attendees but as a committee we are planning to get members together soon to come along soon en masse and cheer on the team!
Finally to the mens Rainbow Laces match - the home game against Cardiff and a buzzing atmosphere coming off the back of a 0-3 away win against Newcastle United. Once again the London Stadium was lit up in rainbow colours with the club pulling out all the stops to show their support for LGBT people. I was interviewed pitch side before kick off by both the club and the Premier League, the campaign was featured heavily in the programme and the Supporter Liaison Officers were handing out rainbow laces to supporters around the stadium and little Kenzie - the star of our video - was a match day mascot and managed to bag a bunch of player autographs. Capped off with the second win in a row where we scored three goals, it was truly a night to remember.
Now the campaign might be over, but the work never stops. Our thanks go out to everyone involved in this amazing campaign, specifically calling out the staff behind the scenes at West Ham United who support us and our brave and wonderful members.