Object of the Week: EFL Rainbow Ball

Uma Ghelani

This week’s object is a very special football that not only has a really fun design, but also made a difference for people all over the country. This football is English professional football’s very first rainbow match ball, created by EFL and PUMA as part of the ‘Rainbow Goals’ campaign. It was featured in EFL Championship, League One and League Two fixtures between 16th and 24th February 2024.

When was this match ball used?

The rainbow ball in our collections was the first one ever used. It was the match ball for the Sky Bet Championship match between West Bromwich Albion and Southampton at The Hawthorns on 16th February 2024. The game ended 2-0 to Southampton, with goals from Ryan Fraser and David Brooks. Fraser scored the goal that opened up the ‘Rainbow Goals’ campaign, as it was the first goal scored using the rainbow ball.

What is its significance?

The design features the rainbow and progress colours, symbolising football is for everyone. The rainbow ball is not only symbolic, but a partner to the EFL’s campaign for inclusion in football, ‘Rainbow Goals’. The time period that was chosen for the campaign is also of significance, as February is LGBTQ+ History Month.

PUMA, the official match ball partners of the EFL, donated £75 per goal scored during this time by the 72 EFL clubs across the Championship, League One and League Two, to the LGBTQ+ Fans for Diversity fund. 214 goals were scored using the rainbow ball, meaning that £16,050 was raised. The fund is driven by Fans For Diversity (a joint project between the Football Supporters’ Association (FSA) and anti-discrimination charity, Kick It Out).

Photo: Geoff Caddick/Shutterstock, courtesy of EFL

The money raised during that time was utilised to support LGBTQ+ supporters. It also supported projects and initiatives to raise awareness about inclusion in football, events promoting diversity, and provided resources for LGBTQ+ fans within the football community. 

EFL partners also showed their support for the campaign, with Sky Bet donating an allocation of the rainbow balls to LGBTQ+ friendly community football clubs and fans.

How has it impacted LGBTQ+ football fans?

During the campaign, EFL clubs worked with LGBTQ+ fan groups, with a focus on understanding the importance of representation and safety in football. They were able to open up powerful conversations on LGBTQ+ experiences, discrimination and football in general.

QPR former manager, Ian Holloway, gave a special ‘team talk’, encouraging the team to score goals, so that as much money as possible could be raised for the fund.

Plymouth Argyle player Oscar Halls and Head Coach Ian Foster, surprised fan group Argyle Pride at a training session, personally presenting them with their allocation of the rainbow balls.

Leicester City men’s goalkeeper Mads Hermansen and women’s midfielder, Janice Cayman, met with fan group Foxes Pride, at Dover Castle, an LGBTQ+ venue where the fan group meet on home matchdays.

Millwall striker Tom Bradshaw met with Daniel Jenkins, who plays for the Millwall Romans (the club’s LGBTQ+ friendly football team) and Grace Seeley of the Millwall Lionesses.

Leeds United star Patrick Bamford met with members of the fan group, Marching Out Together. They discussed the launch of the EFL’s first rainbow ball, as well as the sport itself, the club, and the fans’ experiences as LGBTQ+ people in the footballing world.

Blackburn Rovers’ captain Dom Hyam and goalkeeper Pears Aynsley took on members from Proud Rovers in a crossbar challenge using the rainbow ball at Brockhall Training Ground.

A fun addition for LGBTQ+ footballing gamers that was introduced on 15th February, is that EA SPORTS FC 24™ players are able to use the rainbow ball in gameplay!

Ryan Atkin, England’s first openly gay professional official, said: “The Rainbow Ball is a powerful emblem of diversity, pride, hope and activism. It demonstrates that football recognises its status and impact on society and that it acts on all forms of discrimination, ensuring everyone can be part of the beautiful game. I feel very proud that my colleagues and I will be the first people to handle the ball, as we bring it across the white line ready for kick off.”