EFL debuts rainbow ball for LGBT+ History Month
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efl rainbow ball
The English Football League (EFL) and its official match ball partner PUMA have introduced a first-ever Rainbow Ball to signal that football is for everyone.
View original article on Beyond Sport

The custom designed PUMA ORBITA rainbow ball was used from February 16 - 24 by all 72 competing clubs across Sky Bet Championship, Leagues One and Two matches. The matches fall during the UK’s LGBT+ History Month as well as the Football v Homophobia campaign’s month of action.

This high visibility initiative underscores an intersectional message of inclusivity within sport. The ball's rainbow spectrum is based on the Progress Pride flag, conceived in 2018 by the artist Daniel Quasar, where additional black, brown, light blue, pink and white stripes represent the particular experiences and contributions of people of color and transgender individuals.

Calling the initiative a “historic first,” EFL CEO, Trevor Birch, said "We want the Rainbow Ball to be a catalyst for opening conversations and raising awareness and understanding of the issues affecting the LGBTQ+ community as we work to make the game truly inclusive and representative of society.” For David McArdle, EFL Director of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, the campaign represents the League’s “commitment to changing the game and society for the better.”

Beyond its striking appearance, the Rainbow Ball initiative carries tangible sponsor commitments. For every goal netted during the designated matches, PUMA has pledged a £75 contribution to the LGBTQ+ Fans for Diversity Fund, a joint project of the Football Supporters’ Association and anti-discrimination non-profit, Kick It Out. Outside of the professional game, fans will also have access to the design, with Title Partners Sky Bet donating an allocation of balls to LGBTQ+ friendly clubs and fans. Even virtual players can get involved, with football simulation video games under EA SPORTS FC 24™ adopting the ball in their gameplay from February 15.

With the tagline “Claiming our past, celebrating our present, creating our future,” LGBT+ History month is celebrated every February in the UK. While October is a more usual global choice for the celebration, the UK’s timing recognizes the 2003 full repeal of Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988. This Conservative law banned any activity deemed to ‘promote’ homosexuality, limiting the possibilities for free expression and safe sex education. Barely two decades after this law’s repeal, the centering of a Rainbow Ball in a beloved national football competition shows strides made towards acceptance and visibility, though there is still far to go. 

Ryan Atkin, England’s first openly gay professional football official, was proud to be one of the first to take the rainbow ball across the white line in the tournament. “It demonstrates that football recognizes its impact on society,” he noted, emphasizing the importance of actively moving against all forms of discrimination to ensure that “everyone can be part of the beautiful game.”


Outreach Manager, Beyond Sport


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