St Catz Football Club have always been a high-achieving team — their narrow loss in last year’s Cuppers final is proof of that. Now, however, they are leading the way in a whole new field: from this term, any footballer who has kicked a ball for Catz will receive in their pidge a pair of rainbow laces, as part of the College’s commitment to Stonewall UK’s campaign to kick homophobia out of football.
According to Stonewall, seven in ten football fans have witnessed anti-gay slurs on the terraces — meanwhile, there is not a single openly gay or bi-sexual professional football player in England (although several players in Europe and North America have come out in recent years).Homophobia is endemic in football, and whilst a college team wearing rainbow laces cannot solve the problem, raising awareness must surely be considered the first step.
The impetus behind the Catz scheme came from the 2nd XI football captain, Pete Woods, who had no difficulty securing the support of LGBTQ Rep Eleanor Diamond and JCR President Jack Hampton.
The backing of the College authorities has been essential, as JCR funds were used to purchase the laces. Though the campaign originated with the football team, it is soon to be rolled out across the College’s sports teams, with hockey and rugby scheduled to receive their laces in the near future.
The College’s 1st XI captain, Oli Troen, is proud of his college. “It’s a fantastic initiative,” he commented. “Homophobia is still rife in sport and it’s only through grassroots campaigns like this that we can stamp it out.”
Three games into the season, Catz Men’s 1st Football Team sit second; perhaps the laces have brought them good luck, as well as making a difference in the fight against prejudice.