Rainbow Laces

How Everton embrace equality and inclusion

28 Oct 2022

Ben Osu discusses the importance of fostering and developing an inclusive LGBTQ+ environment

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As clubs continue to celebrate the Rainbow Laces campaign, Ben Osu, the senior lead for equity and inclusion at Everton, spoke to his colleagues at Goodison Park to find out what the club are doing in this sphere.

First-team men's defender Conor Coady is a leading advocate in the fight against discrimination and understands the importance of campaigns such as Rainbow Laces and No Room For Racism.

"I've seen a massive difference over the last few years," says Coady, the inaugural Football Ally winner at the 2021 British LGBT Awards. "I think the more it is pushed in football, the more it's helping people.

"Football is the greatest sport in the world, that's how I see it, and I love playing every single day. For me to think that somebody might not want to play football, might feel within themselves and might panic about it, makes me feel that I would never want that for my children, for my friends. It should never be like that."

Setting and improving standards

Everton were awarded the Advanced Level of the Premier League Equality Standard in 2020, and for Kim Healy, Everton's chief people and culture officer, the focus is on further improving standards.

"To achieve it [the award] just shows the commitment and dedication that we have in the club to equity and inclusion," says Healy. "It's a framework that gives us our strategy and direction for spreading equity and inclusion across the whole Everton family.

"We want Everton to represent our community and the more diversity that we have within the club, the more skills and experience, breadth and knowledge it brings to the club, that's what we want."

Visibility is key

The determination to keep improving and fostering an inclusive environment for all is shared by Olivia Cardwell, Premier League Primary Stars co-ordinator at Everton in the Community.

"The world that we live in is always ever-changing and there's a lot of things that you have to adapt to and learn about every day," says Cardwell.

"The job's not done. Until we have inclusion, equality, diversity in everything, until it's complete and there's no discrimination in any form, you can't stop.

"There's great work being done, and if you continue to do the great work you see less and less of hate crimes, issues of discrimination, people struggling with identity, hiding who they are, or not feeling comfortable and loving themselves."

The value of campaigns such as Rainbow Laces resonates with Ellis Clark, Everton women first-team co-ordinator, as she explains.

"Growing up, I didn't know one person that was openly gay," says Clark. "Having a campaign like this just shines visibility and it lets people know that it's OK to be who you are, that you can be accepted."

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