Sunderland AFC players are helping to score a victory for equal rights - by backing the city’s Pride festival this weekend.
The Premier League outfit’s first team squad have teamed up with representatives of Sunderland Pride to show their solidarity with the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.
The annual Sunderland Pride extravaganza takes place in the city centre on Sunday.
A photoshoot was held with squad players and Sunderland Pride represenatives and supporters - including Kieron Brady, a former Sunderland player who was the first ever footballer, past or present, to be Patron of Gay Pride
Mr Brady said: “It is most encouraging that Sunderland AFC are recognising the importance of Pride to the broad community.
“As Patron of Sunderland Pride, but also a former player with the club, it is essential that the reverence shown towards the club from thousands across the city and region is reverberated back into society in a manner that is egalitarian and illustrates a sympathy with people who are amongst the most marginalised, and susceptible to prejudice, within society.
“This is without the complexities unique to football and which stifle many players being overt about being Gay or Bisexual.
“It is a continuous source of annoyance that from over 3,000 players in the game in England we have not yet sufficiently empowered those who are Gay or Bisexual to say not only ‘I am Gay’ but I am also going to continue to play.
“Sunderland AFC have today shown leadership in that regard and I hope that other clubs and players can follow such a lead in embracing their local LGBT communities and becoming Patrons of the respective Pride movement.”