Altrincham FC made their own small piece of football history last weekend by wearing a kit modelled solely on the LGBTQ+ Pride flag – apparently, the first senior football side to do so.
The newly designed shirt was worn as a one-off for the National League North side’s Saturday’s home fixture against Bradford Park Avenue – which they drew 1-1.
Although there have been other football kits designed with the LGBT community in mind, the shirt is believed to be the first to go full rainbow.
“We had a number of designs we could have chosen from, some of which were perhaps more aesthetically pleasing and may have made better football kits than a solely Pride flag based kit,” said club director Bill Waterson.
“But I think if you’re going to make your support for a cause clear, you may as well shout it from the rooftops. We thought, ‘let’s not do something subtle – let’s do something significant’.”
The shirt has already caught global attention. Although it was worn as a one-off on Saturday, replicas have been on sale for over a fortnight and can be purchased on the club’s website
“We’re well into three figures now,” Waterson told Sky Sports. “We’ve sold it in mainland Europe, North America, South America, Asia, Oceania… It’s had a reach far beyond what we were expecting.”
The rainbow kit celebrates the tenth anniversary of campaign group Football v Homophobia, whose pink and black logo is emblazoned across the front to help maximise visibility, temporarily displacing that of J. Davidson and Sons, the club’s usual sponsor.
This isn’t the first time the local scrap metal dealers have stepped aside to aid the club’s drive to ensure everyone feels welcome at the club – a fact that isn’t wasted on the Robins director.
“They recognise the importance of this, and I’m very grateful.
“Every single person we have dealt with – whether that’s an Altrincham supporter, or Bradford PA, the FA, the National League, whoever it might be – everybody’s been very supportive of what we’re trying to do. That just shows how far football’s come, because I don’t think that would have been the case 10 years ago, and certainly not 20 years ago”.
Greater Manchester has a rich and proud history of support for the LGBT community. Manchester Pride is one of the biggest events of the year and seems to get bigger and better each year.
In 2011, it was named the most gay-friendly city in the world, ahead of London, Amsterdam and San Francisco.
Both Manchester’s senior professional clubs have taken steps to combat homophobia in the game.
Football v Homophobia campaign director Lou Englefield, a member of Canal Street Blues, one of the first recognised LGBTQ+ fan groups in the country, says Manchester City have reached out to work together to help create an environment where everyone is welcome.
In 2017, Manchester United announced their partnership with the charity Stonewall in a bid to help tackle LGBT issues in sport and society whilst looking for new and much needed ways to promote equality within the game.
And at grass roots level, Village Manchester FC is a gay and inclusive club that welcomes anyone who loves football.