If you have been at or watched a TV broadcast of an Everton football match, you may have seen a blue flag with the multicoloured words ‘Rainbow Toffees’ displayed at the Park End with the other supporters groups’ flags.
Rainbow Toffees is the Everton LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) supporters’ group, and we are one of more than 40 similar supporters’ groups representing clubs in English football, including the two other teams on Merseyside! More on that later...
Rainbow Toffees is unusual because it was set up by Jose Fernandez, at the time a member of the Boston Evertonians supporters’ group. Jose initially set up a Facebook page to try to bring together LGBT Evertonians from across the globe. Before long, fans here in the UK were expressing an interest and Jose passed the baton to myself and two other organisers.
Eight years on, the group is still going strong and we have grown to around 500 members.
However, we often hear the question raised as to why there is a need for an LGBT supporters’ group.
In an ideal world, perhaps we wouldn’t need to exist. But it’s not an ideal world. While there have been many changes for the better, LGBT people still face discrimination from some parts of the wider community, including in football and other sports.
There are still no openly gay players in the professional game in England, let alone in the Premier League. And the question is – why? Is the climate still not ready for someone to feel comfortable enough to be openly gay?
We think it should be, and part of what we exist to do is to break down barriers and make Everton, and football, a welcoming and safe space for LGBT supporters.
We have worked with Everton on a number of events and activities, promoting inclusivity and the Club’s excellent All Together Now equality and diversity campaign, as well as national awareness campaigns and dates.
I am proud to say Everton was the first club to participate in the Rainbow Laces day, now organised by the national LGBT equality charity Stonewall, and, prior to the pandemic, Rainbow Toffees were often present on the Fan Zone and in the Matchday Hub, selling the rainbow laces and explaining their purpose. We have also worked together with other local supporters’ groups and marched together at Liverpool Pride.
The last year, with football fans unable to attend stadiums, has been a strange one for Rainbow Toffees, as many of the things which we have traditionally taken part in have not been running, and we have been very restricted in what we have been able to organise in terms of our own events.
However, this Sunday, we will be taking part in an eagerly-anticipated charity match against Rovers and Out, the LGBT supporters’ group of Tranmere Rovers.
The aim is both to give the groups publicity, and to have an enjoyable afternoon out, but also to raise money for Sahir House, a voluntary organisation, who have been offering HIV support, prevention, information and training across Merseyside since 1985.
The match will take place at Target Football CIC’s ground, at Admiral Park in Toxteth, with kick off at 3pm. All are welcome and it will be free admission, but with plenty of opportunities to donate to Sahir House throughout the afternoon! COVID restrictions will need to be obeyed so please bring your masks and practice social distancing during the event.
If you want to find out more about Rainbow Toffees or would like to be involved – and we are always looking for new people, particularly if you live locally and can be involved with organising activities – please contact us by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Alternatively, take a look at the Rainbow Toffees Facebook page here.
Dr Mike Homfray, Rainbow Toffees