English soccer club plays match wearing jerseys designed after LGBT pride flag

Members of Altrincham Football Club pose for a picture in their pro-LGBT kits before kickoff against Bradford AFC on Saturday. (Reuters)
Members of Altrincham Football Club pose for a picture in their pro-LGBT kits before kickoff against Bradford AFC on Saturday. (Reuters)

Soccer has joined the pro-LGBT movement in various ways recently, and on Saturday, English side Altrincham FC took it a step further.

The club, nicknamed the Robins, wore a kit designed entirely after the LGBT pride flag for a match against Bradford AFC, which they drew 1-1 despite going ahead in the 22nd minute.

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Altrincham announced it would be wearing the special kits in late January, and even though U.S. Soccer and others have worn jerseys with smaller nods to the LGBT community’s cause, club director Bill Waterson believes it marks the first time a senior soccer club has gone that far in its support.

“I think if you’re going to make your support for a cause clear, you may as well shout it from the rooftops,” Waterson said in the club’s statement. “We thought, ‘let’s not do something subtle – let’s do something significant.'”

Waterson added the agenda is not only to support the LGBT community, but also to combat racism and promote religious inclusion and respectful treatment of women.

“It’s about making our football ground a comfortable place for anyone to be in, regardless of their background or any circumstances that they bring to the game,” Waterson said.

Altrincham is a semi-professional club based about 10 miles Southwest of Manchester that plays in the National League North, the sixth tier of English soccer. It has been non-league for its entire 128-year existence, meaning it has never gained promotion to the English Football League (which constitutes the second, third and fourth tiers of English soccer) and therefore the Premier League, which has been the top flight and a separate entity since forming in 1992.

The Robins have a reputation as giant-slayers in the FA Cup, a knockout competition which includes hundreds of clubs from the top 10 tiers in England. To date, they have beaten 17 league sides despite never having been one themselves.

February is LGBT History Month in the United Kingdom, and

Soccer has seen a number of notable players come out as gay over the past decade, including former MLS star Robbie Rogers, current Minnesota United midfielder Collin Martin, world-record international goal scorer Abby Wambach, current USWNT stalwart Megan Rapinoe, and former midfielder Thomas Hitzlsperger, the only openly gay player to have played in the Premier League.

Altrincham players celebrate a goal scored by Josh Hancock (second from right) against Bradford AFC on Saturday. (Getty)
Altrincham players celebrate a goal scored by Josh Hancock (second from right) against Bradford AFC on Saturday. (Getty)

The sport has also endured black marks in the process of embracing the LGBT community, notably with U.S. defender Jaelene Hinkle, who refused to wear a jersey with rainbow-colored numbers in honor of Pride Month last summer.

But awareness and acceptance do seem to be growing in soccer, and all profits from Altrincham’s sales of the pride flag jerseys will go to The Proud Trust, which supports the LGBT community and is raising funds to rebuild an LGBT center in Manchester.

Altrincham’s effort has earned praise from Football v Homophobia, a worldwide initiative to challenge such discrimination.

“”The viral reach of the rainbow kit shows how bold statements of inclusion can be hugely welcomed in the game,” said FvH campaign director Lou Englefield. “Congratulations to Altrincham on having taken this step to visibly reflect the diversity of their local community, and for their year-round work on inclusion which is letting local people know that the J Davidson Stadium is truly welcoming of everyone.”

Joey Gulino is the editor of Yahoo Soccer and moonlights as a writer. Follow him on Twitter at @JGulinoYahoo.

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