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Rainbow Blades – The Story So Far

Rainbow Blades – The Story So Far

Rainbow Blades was founded in 2020 as a way for LGBTQ+ fans and allies to share their passion for Sheffield United and now has over 500 members. This is their story so far.


Just before the first coronavirus lockdown James Laley, an openly gay Sheffield United season ticket holder, approached United to discuss starting an official LGBTQ+ & allies supporter group. Following the lead of other clubs who had LGBTQ+ supporter groups in place, James’s vision was to create a safe space where everyone was free to be their authentic selves.

The club were hugely supportive from day one, liaising with James as Rainbow Blades took shape, and the official launch took place in April 2020. By June 2020 we had over 100 members. Former Blades midfielder Curtis Woodhouse BEM was named as the first Rainbow Blades ambassador within the first year.

A committee was formed, and Rainbow Blades started bringing LGBTQ+ fans and allies together, firstly through online socials as the world was still in lockdown. The Zoom meetups proved popular and new members continued to be welcomed as word spread about the group. The group also created a partnership with their charity partner, SAYiT.


Throughout 2021, more ambitions were realized. The first ‘in person’ meet up, a picnic at Weston Park, took place in July 2021. As soon as fans were allowed back to matches, Rainbow Blades began holding matchday socials at Spirit of Sheffield on Cumberland Street. Friendships that had been forged online grew as a result and the number of Rainbow Blades members continued to rise as members attended women’s matches together and even met for Sunday lunch. The Rainbow Blades podcast was launched, amplifying members’ voices. A collaboration between Rainbow Blades and the club introduced the rainbow range of merchandise, the first LGBTQ+ fan forum was held at Bramall Lane allowing Rainbow Blades members to meet and question CEO Stephen Bettis and club staff and James was invited to the Shirecliffe training ground to share a presentation with players from the men’s, women’s, and academy teams. The Rainbow Laces proud allies’ campaign was a big success, with a memorable film about Rainbow Blades being screened prior to the match v Luton Town. The reach of Rainbow Blades reached corporate levels and by the end of 2021 the group had 5 official sponsors. Urbana World, Bond Bryan, Whittam Cox, Ant Marketing & ActionCOACH Sheffield.


Rainbow Blades celebrated their second birthday in April 2022, kicking off a busy summer. Members met at the women’s Euros matches and, alongside Rainbow Blades ambassadors Tony Currie, Sam Badger, and Ellie Wilson, took part in the Pinknic in the Park event, Sheffield’s largest city centre Pride. They also held their annual LGBTQ+ & allies football match with Ellie & Nina Wilson as guest managers.


As well as this year’s Rainbow Laces campaign, Rainbow Blades and the club have been working on a new film project focusing on our trans community which will be released in November. The groups ambitions are endless & 2023 will most definitely be another huge year.

Author: Katey Beeden

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