'United has the power to break down prejudices'

Tuesday 16 January 2024 16:39

It’s a hugely significant period for United’s official LGBTQ+ supporters’ club, Rainbow Devils.

Recently, the club participated in the 10th year of Stonewall’s Rainbow Laces campaign, while Rainbow Devils is poised to celebrate its own five-year anniversary in February.
An upcoming episode of our fan-focused series of films, One Love, will shine a further spotlight on the supporters’ club.
It feels like an appropriate time to take stock of the progress already made, and the many further things that can still be done to make football and United a welcoming place for all.
Rainbow Devils, which celebrates its five-year anniversary in February, includes members from all over the world.
“It all started just before the pandemic, so it was a slow start,” reflects vice-chair Lindsey Parr. “Because we couldn’t get to games, a lot of it was people meeting online and doing events online, because that’s all we could do. When things started getting back to normal, we’ve just gone from strength to strength.”
The membership includes Reds from all over the world, but social platforms continue to play an important, inviting role in bringing fans forward.
“People have been posting their football stories on the Facebook group, which is really nice,” says Parr. “A lot of them are saying that, actually, they’ve been quite shy to come to games or to come to socials. So that online bit has given them that first step to come and meet us.
“It’s been a journey for a lot of people, being part of the LGBTQ+ community and being a football fan. Honestly, I have little tears in my eyes reading some of the stories, because it’s been a long journey for some people to accept themselves, and football being a part of that.”
Perhaps the most visible sign of Rainbow Devils’ rise to the average Red is the banner that was installed on the Sir Alex Ferguson Stand in November 2021. It might seem a simple gesture, but Lindsey believes it was hugely significant.
“I don’t think people understand the power of that banner,” she explains. “That’s what got me signing up to Rainbow Devils – I didn’t even know the group existed. There was a time where, even as a woman in football, it didn’t feel the most comforting space. But that pride of seeing the Rainbow Devils banner and knowing the club are making steps in trying to make sure this is a game for everyone... I think that’s such an important thing.
“I must admit, I’ve always felt welcome. But just knowing I can be my authentic self and there is a group that supports me, and knowing that football is a safe space for everyone, is so important.”
The Rainbow Devils banner, seen here at Wembley, was installed on the Sir Alex Ferguson Stand in 2021.
There are plenty of challenges still ahead, of course. Other fan groups such as Gay Gooners (Arsenal) and Marching Out Together (Leeds United) might have been working with their parent clubs longer than Rainbow Devils, but it seems clear things are moving in the right direction.
“For me, we’re the biggest club in the world and all eyes are on you,” says Parr. “There’s always more that can be done but I must admit, I can’t complain with what the club [are doing] – certainly around the homophobic chanting at the last Chelsea game, and how they’ve supported Pride as well for the last two years.
“2022 was the first time that Rainbow Devils had representation at Pride, whereas Canal Street Blues [Manchester City] had done it before. The ‘One Love’ stuff [the club’s campaign of support for the LGBTQ+ community] has been really, really positive as well.”
The Rainbow Devils were represented at Manchester Pride for the first time in 2022.
Ahead of the Chelsea game in December, Old Trafford also hosted an event to tie in with Rainbow Laces – something Lindsey applauds for being purely celebratory in nature.
“It was a lovely gesture, a chance to celebrate, because I think sometimes a lot of it [the work with the club] can be reactive, to things like the homophobic chanting. That was a chance to celebrate our group and how we’ve been working with the club.
“Certainly in the last couple of years we’ve grown from strength to strength. Seeing us continue to grow and work with the club, to create that safe space and that equality within football, is so powerful. United, certainly, has that power to break down those prejudices.”