West Ham United’s women’s team welcomed LGBT+ supporters’ group Pride Of Irons to Rush Green Stadium in a show of support for Stonewall’s Rainbow Laces campaign.
Sunday’s Barclays FA Women’s Super League match with Manchester United saw Pride of Irons clap both Matt Beard’s Irons and the Red Devils onto the pitch in a guard of honour before joining captains Gilly Flaherty and Katie Zelem in the centre-circle for a pre-match photo.
The group also handed out rainbow laces to the attending supporters and talked about their support for the Irons along with other fans.
Flaherty is an avid supporter of the Pride Of Irons and, as a gay professional footballer, fully recognises the work of both the supporters’ group and Stonewall’s Rainbow Laces campaign.
It was lovely for them to be the guard of honour and then to join us as well for the handshakes. It’s something I’m proud to support and I’m proud to represent.
“I thought at first that I recognised quite a few of the fans,” Flaherty told whufc.com. It was lovely for them to be the guard of honour and then to join us as well for the handshakes. They’re a big part of this Club.
“It’s something I’m proud to support and I’m proud to represent. I’m blessed and lucky to have, not only such a supportive team but also such a supportive family when it comes to being gay.
“It’s something incredible that the Club does. It’s a testament, not only to the Club but also to the fact that we’re open. Anyone is welcome to come down and watch us.”
Pride Of Irons co-chair and West Ham United supporter Jo Bailey is delighted with how encouraging and supportive the Club, and the women’s team, have been to supporting LGBT+ fans.
She hopes the support continues until every single football fan can enjoy matches together.
Jo Bailey said: “West Ham United are at the forefront of inclusivity with their LGBT+ fans. To see that in the women’s game, which is so much more open about diversity, is just fantastic. You feel welcome. You don’t have to worry about hiding who you are. You can be yourself.
“It’s about visibility. We want to ensure that every single person feels comfortable and part of the family, whether it’s West Ham United or another club.”