Rainbow Laces

Nottingham Forest launch official LGBTQ+ supporters' club Proud Forest

3 Dec 2023
Proud Forest member

Proud Forest founder Martin Hyland explains why group is being formed on the weekend of Rainbow Laces

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Premier League and clubs celebrate 10th anniversary of Rainbow Laces

The weekend's Premier League matches are celebrating the 10-year anniversary of Stonewall’s Rainbow Laces campaign, demonstrating the League and clubs' ongoing support for LGBTQ+ inclusion.

In the Premier League matches from 2-7 December, rainbow armbands will be worn by captains across all 20 games, with Rainbow Laces branding also widely visible within stadiums throughout the period.

When Nottingham Forest host Everton on Saturday, the celebration at the City Ground will have extra resonance as it will also mark the launch of Forest's official LGBTQ+ supporters' club, Proud Forest.

Proud Forest has got the support of men's first-team midfielder Ryan Yates and women's defender Nat Johnson.

"What makes me proud being a Nottingham Forest player is that we all stand up for each other and we all fight against discrimination," Yates says.

In the Forest's matchday programme for the Everton fixture, Proud Forest's founder, Martin Hyland, explains the significance of its establishment.  

"Today’s match is our designated Rainbow Laces fixture and marks the 10th anniversary of the campaign; it feels like this is the perfect opportunity to introduce myself.

"My name is Martin, I am the founder of Proud Forest - the official LGBTQ+ Supporters’ Club for Nottingham Forest. I am grateful that the club has given me the opportunity to talk about our group in today’s programme. Before I get into that I feel it is important to talk about my experience as a Forest fan, as well as why our group exists.

Proud Forest Yates 16-9
Defenders Nat Johnson and Ryan Yates show their support for Proud Forest

"I have been a Forest fan all my life, my family are all Forest fans, and we would spend Saturday afternoons in the kitchen listening to the games on the radio. It wasn’t until 2013, that I became a season ticket holder.

"This was an exciting time, and I was really looking forward to going to the City Ground and experiencing matchdays on a regular basis. However, there was slight apprehension.

"As an LGBTQ+ person, there are many questions and concerns that will go through our heads whenever we are doing something new or going somewhere new. Will people be able to tell I’m gay? How am I going to act? Do I have to hide things about myself? Will there be homophobic language being used? And the most important – Is it safe for me?

"Saturday 3rd August 2013, Huddersfield were the visitors to the City Ground. A Henri Lansbury goal on 53 minutes was enough to secure us a 1-0 victory. I’d gone to the game with my brother, and some friends – I was hooked. I loved every minute of it from pre-match drinks in the pub, Mull of Kintyre, the game and post-match analysis between us all…back in the pub!

"In the 10 years I have been a season ticket holder, and in all the games I have attended I am glad to say I have only ever heard one homophobic remark – aimed at an opposition player for going down too easily. I am proud to be part of a Forest family that is diverse, welcoming and in the main part inclusive.

"I am fortunate enough to go to matches now - without that early apprehension - however, there are fans out there that will not share this confidence and who feel that Football is not a welcoming and safe space for LGBTQ+ people like us. This is one of the reasons I founded Proud Forest, following the collapse of the previous LGBTQ+ supporters’ group.

"I believe that football is a sport for all, regardless of sex, orientation, race etc. Proud Forest is here to work alongside the club and our other supporters’ group to improve the matchday experience and raise awareness of the club’s LGBTQ+ fans. To make the World-Famous City Ground a safe and inclusive stadium for everyone to be their true authentic selves. All of us fans have a deep connection with Forest and matchdays here are something we all look forward to.

"Since Rainbow Laces launched in 2013 - coincidentally the same year I became a season ticket holder - over 1 million people have worn the laces as a show of their support for LGBTQ+ inclusion and acceptance. The impact of the Rainbow Laces campaign over the last 10 years has been enormous in terms of allowing LGBTQ+ people to feel welcome and accepted in sports. It has also encouraged more fans to call out and report any homophobic incidents they may witness at football grounds.

"Seeing our club actively taking part in the campaign, our captain donning the rainbow armband, makes us feel like the club has got our back as LGBTQ+ fans and wants us to be a part of this amazing journey.

"Forest IS for everyone."

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