Essex football clubs and leagues proved true allies of LGBTQ+ inclusion during November and December as they showed their support for Stonewall's award-winning Rainbow Laces campaign at matches.
A total of 21,500 laces and 1,250 captain's armbands were distributed nationally to clubs and leagues to wear at their games, with hundreds visible at matches in Essex, joining the Premier League, EFL and Barclays FA Women's Super League in support of LGBTQ+ equality.
The campaign kicked-off on Friday November 22 and ran through to Sunday December 8, with all 50 County FAs involved in promoting it.
According to Stonewall's research, over four in ten LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) people (43 per cent) think public sporting events aren't welcoming for them.
The combined efforts of clubs and leagues continues to generate awareness of, and help tackle, homophobia, transphobia and biphobia abuse. But while progress has been made, there is still work to be done to encourage people to be active allies of LGBTQ+ people and make football 'For All'.
You may also want to watch:
The FA and the Essex FA recognise football can play an important role in encouraging everyone to be themselves and creating acceptance in wider society.
With this in mind, LGBTQ+ is a significant focus of 'In Pursuit of Progress', The FA's equality, diversity and inclusion plan.
Cindi Chatha, Essex FA inclusion development officer, said: "The Rainbow Laces campaign is important in Essex grassroots as it reiterates that football is For All, regardless of any protected characteristics.
"Rainbow Laces helps create awareness and supports the LGBTQ+ communities within Essex. I'd like to thank the participating leagues, clubs, managers and players.
"Without them, the weekends wouldn't have been as hugely successful as they were. There were some very inventive uses of the laces, because the changes in the design of football boots means that not all boots have them.
"It was great to see how players used various ways to utilise their laces, like as bracelets or in ponytails!"