This weekend, the League of Ireland (LOI), together with its title sponsor SSE Airtricity, is dedicating its branding to LGBT Ireland in football matches across both the Men’s and Women’s Premier Divisions, as well as the Men’s First Division. The takeover will take place on May 19 and 20, with the specific aim of promoting the National LGBT+ Helpline, as well as values of diversity and inclusion, within clubs and among fans and the community.
The campaign comes in advance of Pride month, launching today, May 17, with the support of Shamrock Rovers’ Roberto (Pico) Lopes and Shelbourne’s Keeva Keenan. Speaking to GCN about the initiative, both players expressed the importance of driving home the message that football is for everyone.
“I think it’s really important for people to know it’s okay to be part of the LGBT+ community and that the sport is really accepting,” Keenan said.
“And not just in the women’s game, in the men’s too because Pico is a part of this as well. It’s great for him to be able to speak because it’s slightly more of a touchy subject with men in football,” she added.
“I think there’s more of a stigma around it in men’s football because they have to come out and say it. It’s more of a news article when a man comes out and says, ‘This is what I am’. Whereas with women, it’s just normal if you come in with your girlfriend.”
Pico himself spoke on the current situation in the men’s game, noting that the environment was definitely “more homophobic” when he started playing, but “the mood has changed in football in the last few years”.
“It’s important to show support for (LGBT Ireland). I’ve witnessed discrimination on the pitch; it’s disgusting. There’s no place for it.
“We need to call people out on it. The more we speak about it, the better,” he concluded.
The LGBT Ireland branding will be visible at two men’s matches: Shelbourne v St Patricks Athletics and Kerry v Bray Wanderers, and at two women’s games: Bohemians v Athlone Town and Sligo Rovers v Shelbourne. Furthermore, all League of Ireland clubs will be provided with rainbow corner flags and captain’s armbands in support of the LGBT Ireland takeover and Pride.
In advance of Pride month, @sseairtricity, together with the League of Ireland, is dedicating its sponsorship branding to @LGBT_ie this weekend to promote the National LGBT+ helpline services across the country.
Full details here 🏳️🌈#LOI | #ShowingTheirPride
— League of Ireland (@LeagueofIreland) May 17, 2023
Speaking about the campaign, Mark Scanlon, LOI Director, stated, “We are proud to be a part of this fantastic initiative which will promote our clear and concrete message that football should be inclusive for all.
“League of Ireland grounds welcome everyone and our Clubs are diverse and strong social entities. We’re delighted that SSE Airtricity have decided to dedicate their sponsorship space to promote this important message to all our supporters, officials, players and Clubs.”
Paula Fagan, CEO of LGBT Ireland, added: “As we approach Pride month, let’s make sport everyone’s game and send a clear message that no matter who you support, we’re all on the same team.”
Similarly, David Manning, Director of Customer Marketing and Communications at SSE Airtricity, commented: “We really hope that this weekend will help raise awareness for the vital work that LGBT Ireland do and we’re encouraging every club to get behind the campaign too.”
In 2022, SSE Airtricity was announced as a partner of the National LGBT+ Helpline, marking the first time that the service has been fully funded, and allowing it to remain free for the year. The partnership also enables the organisation to advertise its other offerings and support volunteer training and vetting.
The LGBT+ Helpline is available 7 days a week with trained volunteers ready to listen.
Our Helpline is available :
Monday to Thursday: 6:30pm to 10:00pm
Fridays: 4:00pm to 10:00pm
Weekends: 4:00pm to 6:00pm pic.twitter.com/B6wk2yG1TU
— LGBT Ireland (@LGBT_ie) January 13, 2023
This is the latest initiative within Irish football developed to promote LGBTQ+ inclusion in the sport. Earlier this week, Shelbourne FC launched its 2023 Pride Festival programme, including its new Pride Cup, an evening party in Tolka Park, an appearance in the Dublin parade and a Rainbow Reds fundraiser.
Additionally, Bohemian FC unveiled its new collaborative partnership with Dublin Devils FC, also announcing its first-ever Pride of Dalymount Cup.
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