Even though this season did not end the way that most fans would have wanted it to, big strides were made off the pitch by the new owner Andrea Radrizzani. Beyond just “sprucing up” Elland Road, adding murals, and even purchasing Elland Road back from a third party owner, the club has turned over a new leaf in terms of community relations, seeking to be a partner with the local council and with the Leeds community as a whole.
And even with an ill-advised new badge release and an extremely questionable post-season tour, Radrizzani and the directors at Leeds continue to at least try to be good members of the community. The effort to bring the Academy and training ground back into the city from Thorp Arch was met with mostly positive responses from the community.
It comes as no surprise then that Leeds United has signed on to be a premium sponsor of the Leeds Pride festival. Along with the club’s endorsement of Marching Out Together, the Leeds Untied LGBT+ fan group, the directors of the club have made strides to make sure that all members of the community feel welcome at the club.
Marching Out Together, the LGBT+ fan group, had earlier in the season secured former Leeds player Robbie Rogers as a patron of the group. Rogers was one of the first openly gay professional athletes in the United States as a member of the LA Galaxy, before he retired last year.
Per the club’s official website, Angus Kinnear, the Managing Director of Leeds United, gave the following statement about the sponsorship of the Pride festival:
We have enjoyed working with Marching Out Together (the Leeds United LGBT+ fans group) over the last year on a range of initiatives to make Leeds United an LGBT+ friendly club.
We want everyone to feel included when visiting Elland Road and to know that they will be welcomed as part of the Leeds United family.
I am so delighted that Leeds United will be joining the celebrations as a sponsor of Leeds Pride this year, it’s a powerful way in which we can visibly demonstrate our support for the local LGBT+ community.
David English-Fletcher, one of the board members of Marching Out Together, also said:
As passionate Leeds United fans, we are proud of the support the club has offered us this year and we are excited about its support for Leeds Pride this year.
On Sunday 5th August Leeds United will be joining us on the Pride parade through the city and we will share a market stall at the later celebrations.
Leeds United is also keen to promote Leeds Pride Week at a home game and it will be a fantastic time for everyone involved.
This move by the club was met with mostly positive comments from the fans on social media, with a few “fans” criticizing the club for the outreach. And while many fans wondered exactly what the big deal is, the director of Leeds Pride, Liaqat Ali had this to say about what it means to the festival to have Leeds United as a major sponsor:
We are delighted that Leeds United will be a premier sponsor of Leeds Pride this year and we look forward to the club being involved in the years ahead.
The world of football has not been regarded as a natural LGBT+ allay in the past and this is a fantastic gesture by the club and a sign of its genuine commitment to combat discrimination generally and to engage with the local LGBT+ community.
Leeds United is an iconic brand in the city and is known all over the world and we welcome the financial support it offers as sponsors.
We are also excited by the additional impact the club’s visible participation will have over the Leeds Pride celebrations and campaigns and I’d like to thank Angus Kinnear, the club and Marching Out Together for their support.
Not only will this do wonders in terms of outreach in the Leeds LGBT community, it’s also the right thing to do. For years football has been less than welcome to all, and it’s time for everyone, no matter what race, class, gender, sexual orientation, etc, to feel welcome at Elland Road and root on Leeds. After all, All Leeds Aren’t We?