‘Amazing’ response to Rainbow Wall as new LGBT+ fans group boosts Wales

Phil Blanche, PA
·4-min read

Welsh football has a new Rainbow Wall to provide a safe environment for LGBT+ fans to follow their country in time for the 2022 World Cup qualifiers.

As Wales marched to the semi-finals of Euro 2016, their army of 30,000-plus fans were christened the Red Wall by Gareth Bale and his fellow players.

Five years on and The Rainbow Wall is the name being adopted by Wales’ first supporters’ group for members of the LGBT+ community.

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It has been fully backed by the Football Association of Wales and will be launched with a virtual social get-together before Wednesday’s opening World Cup qualifier in Belgium.

Rainbow Wall co-founder Brandon Gregory told the PA news agency: “The response has been amazing, so positive.

“It’s about building a sense of community and togetherness and you don’t have to be part of the LGBT+ community to join it.

“You can be a straight person who wants to support the cause and what we stand for. The FAW has been excellent in providing the support and delivered what they said they would.

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“It makes me immensely proud to be Welsh and be part of something that I really care about.”

Gregory has a similar painful football story to many members of the LGBT+ community.

The 26-year-old says he suffered discriminatory abuse playing local football in his native Rhondda before moving to the Cardiff Dragons.

The Dragons are currently the only LGBT+ football club in Wales and play in the gay football supporters network league.

“I came out when I was 15 and the team I was playing for cut me out and reacted as if I didn’t exist,” Gregory said.

“I stopped playing for years and it was only when I moved and found the Cardiff Dragons online that I started playing again. I stopped worrying about how people would react to me.

“It’s not so much a negative experience being a supporter, it’s more of a football culture issue.

“There’s a bit of tension on the issue. It doesn’t need to, but it does exist.

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The FAW’s most recent survey suggested around two per cent of those involved in Welsh football – be it players, coaches, match officials or fans – are part of the LGBT+ community.

Wales’ leading clubs have helped establish the Rainbow Wall, with groups at Swansea and Wrexham already in existence and discussions ongoing about creating others at Cardiff and Newport.

The Rainbow Wall’s official launch will include a quiz and plenty of light-hearted chat about football, with Belgian LGBT+ fans and members of the two Football Associations also present.

“We want to keep the tone friendly and make it fun,” Gregory said about a group which mirrors England’s Three Lions Pride.

Wales v Hungary – UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifying – Group E – Cardiff City Stadium
Wales defender Connor Roberts wants to see more inclusion in football (Nick Potts/PA)

“But if people want to voice concerns or experiences then we’re there to do that as well.

“There is a lot of nervousness around people to be themselves and this group allows people to take that step.

“They know they are coming into a safe environment, listening to other people’s experiences and seeing a welcome that was not there before.

“It’s going to continue, as long as Wales play football we’ll be there.”

England Women v Wales Women – FIFA Women’s World Cup 2019 – UEFA Qualifier – Group A – St Mary’s Stadium
Jess Fishlock, the most capped Welsh women’s player, has highlighted the impact of football in the LGBT+ community

The Rainbow Wall has won support from members of both Wales men’s and women’s senior teams.

Swansea defender Connor Roberts said: “I know I have got fans who are part of that community and that doesn’t make them any less of a fan than the people who aren’t.

“The more people we can include and make feel welcome and happy to watch football, listen to football, come play football, coach football, then the better really isn’t it?”

Jess Fishlock, Wales’ most capped women’s player and a member of the LGBT+ community, said: “If I wasn’t involved in women’s football I would probably still be in the Narnia closet.

“Football for me at a very young age gave me everything that I needed to understand that being gay was not only OK, but it was perfectly normal and also great.”