LGBTQ+ team Rainbow Rovers return to action with an Historic Endorsement from The Football Association

"Love is Love" and the rainbow colours printed on the back of the 2021 red Rainbow Rovers home shirt

Football’s history books are being rewritten in August, as Rainbow Rovers, Whitehawk Football Club’s affiliated LGBTQ+ team, are back in action on August 7 with Football United 2.

The team, composed of some of the best LGBTQ+ players and supporters in the country and managed by Dr Sophie Cook HonDLitt, FRSA writer, speaker, broadcaster & diversity champion, will take on an all star mixed gender ex-professional team in partnership with team sponsors Utilita, in ‘Football United 2’ on Saturday, August 7, 2021, kick off 3pm.

The game will be one of the first in the County to be officially sanctioned, as they partner with the Sussex County FA in an ongoing pilot to increase the amount of Adult Mixed Gender Football events, and to engage with the LGBT+ Community in Brighton. The pilot creates open-access to all – removing barriers for men, women, and the LGBTQ+ / non-binary community to play the beautiful game together.

There’s also a competition for fans to be part of the Utilita All-Stars team —   details will be available on the Rainbow Rovers website, Rainbowrovers.org and the whitehawkfc.com website and via social media channels. Further announcements on some very special national and international players taking part on the day will be announced in the coming days.

Sophie Cook, the first Transgender woman to work in professional football and manager of Rainbow Rovers said: 

When we originally launched Rainbow Rovers back in 2019 our ambitious idea of creating a trailblazing mixed-gender team of LGBT+ players was unheard of within football and yet here we are two years later with the Sussex County FA endorsing our match as part of their pilot looking into the feasibility and issues affecting mixed-gender football.”

For our players, many of whom had expressed difficulty being involved in the game previously due to their sexuality or gender identity, it was the experience of a lifetime to walk onto the pitch at Whitehawk’s Terrapura Ground alongside players that they had followed for their entire lives”.

Since I came out as transgender at AFC Bournemouth back in 2015 the game has taken great strides forward towards LGBT inclusion with support from all levels of the game. Unfortunately there is still more to do and I hope that Rainbow Rovers plays a small part in showing people that bigotry and abuse within the beautiful game is unacceptable, and that football really is for all.”

Chief Executive of the Sussex County FA, Ken Benham, said: 

“We truly believe that football is For ALL, and as a County FA we are proud to be supporting Whitehawk FC and Rainbow Rovers.

 “The work they have done already to help increase awareness of LGBTQ+ inclusion in football has been amazing, and with The FA now confirming the event as a mixed adult football pilot, it will help increase awareness further and we are delighted to be part of this fantastic event.”

 Jem Maidment, Chief Marketing Officer at Utilita comments on inclusivity in football sponsorship: 

“Anyone who loves football and knows what it feels like to play football will understand why this is such an incredibly positive milestone in the history of the game. Football is packed full of countless incredible benefits — everyone should have the right to access it, and feel safe and confident to do so.”

“Having the Utilita logo emblazoned on the front of the Whitehawk FC and Rainbow Rovers shirts is just one way to demonstrate our strong belief that football should be accessible for all, and we whole-heartedly welcome and support Sussex FAs pilot.”

Whitehawk FC’s Vice-Chair and Head of Commercial & Marketing Kevin Miller said;

“We’re absolutely delighted to welcome Rovers back on to the pitch again, and to be part of what is a historic endorsement from the County FA is incredible. It’s been a difficult journey for all of us over the past eighteen months, and now, more than ever, we need to highlight and support equality and inclusion not just on the pitch, but in the wider world.”

He added,

I’d like to thank our Club partners Utilita for being so supportive in everything we are looking to achieve, Huxley Digital for the amazing Rovers website, all the ‘All-Stars’ that will be taking part, and Jade Harker and Sean Lofting from the Sussex County FA for their amazing support.

It’s a real celebration of inclusion, and I hope that fans of the beautiful game flock to the ground and enjoy a brilliant day!”

Sophie Cook in the stand at the Enclosed Ground, Whitehawk with the 2021 Rainbow Rovers Shirt

 

The match is also supported by the Football Supporters Association, Kick it Out, Football v Homophobia, and Sports Media LGBT, and will be refereed by Ryan Atkin, a professional football referee who has officiated in the EFL Championship and Leagues 1 and 2. In August 2017, he decided to come out, making him the only out gay man in professional football.

The first Football United game took place on Brighton Pride Weekend in 2019, and was cancelled in 2020 due to the Covid pandemic.

The match will be broadcast LIVE on Whitehawk FC’s Youtube Channel, Hawks TV, courtesy of Sports Media Company Your Instant Replay

Tickets are £5 Adult, kids 10 and under free click HERE

Rainbow Rovers - Football United 2Rainbow Rovers - Love is Love Poster Ranbow Rovers shirt with 'Football United 2' title and August 7th date.

 

For further information contact:

Sophie Cook (Rainbow Rovers) – sophiecooktalks@gmail.com   

Kevin Miller (Whitehawk FC) 07833 736234 – kevin.miller@whitehawkfc.com  

For more information about Utilita, or to arrange an interview, please contact Lisa Malyon on 07525 204402 / Lisa@sensecommunications.co.uk or Sophie Pettengale on 07715 667960 / sophie@sensecommunications.co.uk

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