Case study: Play Proud –
sport as a safe place
Sport can be such a force for good, helping individuals and communities in so many positive ways – especially kids and young people. Within this landscape is NGO streetfootballworld (SFW), a global network of non profit organisations whose goal is to maximise the power of football to change the world.
It is a mission we deeply admire. And we have had the honour of working with SFW to bring a very special global programme to life: Play Proud. This initiative aims to make football more inclusive and accessible for LGBTQ+ kids.
The football field can be a space where young people feel free, safe and more confident. They come together from all walks of life to work as a team, with one common purpose. But it isn’t this easy for all young people.
With the Play Proud programme, coaches and mentors will be better educated and trained in how to make every young person feel safe and accepted in football environments and able to play proud, whatever their sexuality.
Working in collaboration with SFW, we named and branded the programme and supporting campaign, using elements uniquely connected to the LGBTQ+ community. The Play Proud logomark incorporates a customised version of the ‘Gilbert’ font, named after Gilbert Baker, the creator of the iconic rainbow flag, which is also part of the design.
One important strand of the supporting launch programme campaign is the film shown below, created to raise awareness around the topic. It was produced by FOX Sports Supports and New York City Football Club’s (NYCFC) City in the Community foundation.
Shown during the football World Cup in Russia, it tells the story of Melina de la Cruz and how playing football through New York-based scheme Saturday Night Lights (SNL) steered her away from gang culture and helped her come out as gay to her mum.
SNL is a crime and gang prevention programme that gets kids off the city’s streets and into unused gyms, through sport. It is part of NYCFC.
The essence of the film and how SNL coach Lilli Barrett-O’Keefe made a safe space for Melina is the inspiration for Play Proud. The safe, inclusive and happy environment Lilli created with SNL was the reason Melina felt comfortable coming out.
Since launching a successful fundraising campaign last year, the Play Proud programme is now being implemented in North America and the Caribbean, with a view to roll out across Europe.
For children, life can be incredibly hard just because you’re a kid. But life as an LGBTQ+ kid can be even harder. Unlike life, football is a fair game. It can be a safe haven from the world at large. But coaches and players don’t always know how to welcome an LGBTQ+ kid the right way. So much can go wrong, even with the best intentions. In the U.S. alone, only a quarter of LGBTQ+ youth say they play a school sport, compared to 68 per cent of a national non-LGBTQ+ sample. The Play Proud programme is training football coaches to spot children who might be in a tough place and help them create the most welcoming environment possible.
Gaining confidence and letting go of fear can make a big difference, not just for those who want to come out or be who they truly are. It can make a difference for an entire sport and the communities that surround it by driving social change.
Programmes and campaigns like this one really matter. And Pride Month is a time to be thinking about them a bit more.
At Tea & Water, we believe sport is incredibly important in connecting communities and transforming our societies. And Play Proud is a project we are very happy to have helped bring to life. We created Tea & Water for projects like this one, and we are always happy when organisations reach out to us, so we can support them to create initiatives that truly matter and make a difference to society and the world.