Gay rights charity Stonewall, who are being backed by bookmaker Paddy Power, have sent sets of laces to all Premier League and Football League clubs, plus the 42 teams in the Scottish Professional Football League.

The Right Behind Gay Footballers campaign is focused on changing attitudes in football rather than urging players to ‘come out’.

The campaign already has support from Queens Park Rangers midfielder Joey Barton, who tweeted "Join the rainbow laces movement. Sexuality in sport should not be an issue in the 21st century. #RBGF".

Speaking to The Telegraph, Stonewall deputy chief executive Laura Doughty said: "It's time for football clubs and players to step up and make a visible stand against homophobia in our national game."

Doughty added: "By wearing rainbow laces players will send a message of support to gay players and can begin to drag football into the 21st century."

It is worth noting that there are no known openly gay footballers in the English and Scottish professional leagues. Former Leeds and United States winger Robbie Rogers claimed he could not have continued his career if he had openly declared his sexuality, due to a “pack mentality” that changes the way footballers behave.

Before Rogers’ revelation, only two footballers had publicly said they were gay. Former England Under-21 international Justin Fashanu was the first professional footballer in Britain to come out, in 1990, before he took his own life eight years later, aged 37.

The other was a Swedish lower league player Anton Hysen, who came out in an interview with a Swedish football magazine in 2011.

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