While we are slowly seeing a growing number of LGBTQ athletes at elite levels of sport, research continues to demonstrate that there are a number of factors that may contribute to the exclusion of LGBTQ people at all levels of sporting activity.

Stonewall, the UK charity for LGBTQ equality, reports that 68% of young LGBTQ people don’t like team sports, and LGBTQ people are far less likely than their straight counterparts to take part in team sports or sports-related activity.

The Rainbow Laces campaign is an annual campaign designed to encourage the sporting world to demonstrate their support for LGBTQ equality and inclusion. All levels of sport are encouraged to participate – national teams, elite clubs, governing bodies, amateur athletes, local clubs, and fan groups.

The 2018 Rainbow Laces campaign kicked off on 17 November and will run until 7 December.

I caught up with Kirsty Clarke, Director of Sport at Stonewall for an update on how this year’s campaign is going.

Why are allies important when it comes to inclusivity in sport?

Sports can bring people together like nothing else. Unfortunately, it’s also often somewhere lesbian, gay, bi and trans people feel excluded. Both on and off the pitch, everyone can help make sport more welcoming for LGBT people. Being an ally simply means being a good teammate and standing up for LGBT equality. Anyone can do this by wearing Rainbow Laces or calling out anti-LGBT chants and insults at live events or online.

Our Rainbow Laces campaign is about how everyone can come together to support LGBT people, whether as fans or players. The more players, fans, clubs and organisations that stand up for equality in sport, the sooner we kick discrimination out of all sports, at every level.

What sort of response to this year’s campaign have you received from national governing bodies and major teams?

This year we’ve seen the biggest ever show of support for LGBT people in sport. From cricket and darts, to football and rugby, more sports than ever have been lacing up. We had to extend the campaign from a week to three weeks to meet the demand for sports wanting to take part. This shows just how huge an appetite there is for changing the culture in sport.

Does it make it easier having a broadcast partner such as Sky Sports?

Sky Sports helps us reach an audience in a way that we couldn’t do alone. The Sky Sports team are super engaged – they don’t just promote the campaign’s messages, they live them in all their work. They are passionate about having everyone who watches Sky Sports and cares about sport to celebrate equality and make sport everyone’s game.

What does success look like in terms of this year’s Rainbow Laces campaign?

This year we’ve asked people to take responsibility to challenge prejudice and abuse. We know people care about promoting LGBT equality in sport, but now we want to see people step up and create that change. Wearing Rainbow Laces is one way to do this. We’ve already sold more than 75,313 Rainbow Laces, but we want to see that number reach over 100,000 by the end of the campaign.

We also want to see more people calling out derogatory chants and insults, either on the pitch or in the stands. When we all play our part, we can make every LGBT person feel welcome and that’s what Rainbow Laces is all about.