Express & Star

Proud Baggies flying the flag for LGBT+ fans at The Hawthorns

An Albion supporters' group championing the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender supporters will be flying a new flag at The Hawthorns next season.

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Proud Baggies flying the flag for LGBT+ fans at The Hawthorns

'Proud Baggies' was set up last year by Piero Zizzi, and already has 135 members.

Now the group will be hanging a permanent 4mx1m rainbow flag in the East Stand - which coincidentally used to be named the Rainbow Stand - as a reminder that there is no place for homophobia at football.

"The club have been very supportive from the start, so to able to have this visibility and a permanent presence at The Hawthorns is further proof the club are fully behind making Albion inclusive and welcoming of all, and in this instance, its LGBT+ community," said Zizzi.

"Since our official launch in September at Albion's inaugural Diversity Day, the club have supported us with the Rainbow Laces campaign, Birmingham Pride and beyond, so for that we are extremely grateful.

"We now have 135 members and we would like to encourage all supporters; LGBT+, family, friends and allies to join us in making West Bromwich Albion a club for all.

"We are committed to ensuring homophobia and all forms of discrimination have no place at The Hawthorns.

"There are now over 40 LGBT+ Supporters groups at clubs across the country so the visibility within the game is growing and that should be celebrated."

Zizzi has been encouraged by the positive reaction Proud Baggies and the flag has received from the majority of fans.

Proud Baggies flying the flag for LGBT+ fans at The Hawthorns

"The support from fellow Albion supporters has been overwhelming," he said. "The few negative comments we've received only serve to validate the need for this visibility and our existence.

"On the whole it's been a very positive response and we've seen great examples of self-policing amongst our own support.

"It's a proud moment for us, if the flag makes just one person feel more welcome at The Hawthorns, then it's served it's purpose.

"We're proud of what we've achieved as a group the past year but there's still work to do.

"The rainbow flag is a powerful symbol to the LGBT+ community so to see our club displaying it with pride sends out a positive message and huge kudos to the club for that.

"We are proud to be part of the Albion Family, a club that is welcoming and inclusive of all.

"As a club we have been pioneers of diversity, equality and inclusion. Breaking down barriers is very much a part of this club’s ethos.

"We want to help continue that and celebrate the diversity at the club along with other supporters groups such as Apna Albion and Polish Baggies. Diversity runs through the DNA of this historic, groundbreaking club."

Proud Baggies are hoping to install the flag before the Cyrille Regis memorial match against Coventry City on Saturday, July 28