FOOTBALLERS will generally do what they are told, on or off the pitch.

So best of luck waiting for a footballer to decide for themselves to speak out any of the burning issues of the day.

This year’s Rainbow Laces campaign starts this weekend with the Premier League and EFL joining forces alongside other sports to promote LGBT+ inclusion in sport.

Players will wear rainbow laces in boots and skippers will wear rainbow armbands.

This, alongside bespoke Rainbow Laces pitch flags, ball plinths and substitute boards. 

It is great to see the campaign resonating with so many football fans around the country.

But it is fascinating to see how it has grown because it took a long time for clubs to get on board.

In 2014, I was approached by a friend who ran a marketing company asking for my help to raise awareness of the Rainbow Laces campaign.

EARLY RAINBOW STRUGGLES

He wanted me to use my contacts in football to get players to wear the laces for Premier League games.

To say it was a struggle to persuade players and clubs to get involved was an understatement.

Two players decided for themselves they wanted to wear the laces for top-flight games and tweet their support for the campaign before kick-off.

Ashley Westwood while he was playing for Aston Villa and then West Bromwich Albion striker Saido Berahino agreed to show support.

It taught me a lot of players will take part in campaigns when they are told to, not because it is something they are personally passionate about.

Or they will only have something to say on an issue that will directly affect them.

And even in these cases, very few will put their head above the parapet and speak out.

Colin Kaepernick made a stand about an issue that did not directly affect him.

His sporting prowess handed him a minuscule level of privilege in America, but he never forgot about other black people less fortunate than him, and his stance has cost him his NFL career.

RAHEEM CAUSED A STER

Raheem Sterling forced the British media to have a long look at itself last year when he spoke out after he was racially abused at Stamford Bridge last season.

The Manchester City star has also urged any of his 2.1million Twitter followers who are not registered to vote, to do so.

He refrained from telling anyone who to vote for but got a barrage of abuse for his troubles.

So players who keep their heads down on the advice of their agent or PR consultants could be on to something.

Stray outside any perceived lane and “stick to football” is hurled at them.

But this has not deterred USA star Megan Rapinoe.

The striker was not afraid to speak out on behalf of her team-mates as they battled for equal pay with their male counterparts while winning the World Cup in France this year.

She made it clear she would not accept President Donald Trump’s invitation to the White House after their success and urged her team-mates to follow suit.

Rapinoe was named FIFA Player of the Year alongside Lionel Messi in September.

She used her acceptance speech to speak out about equality, racism and challenge other players to use their platform to influence change.

No one told her to do any of this, as a human she felt compelled to use her platform to force change and to hell with the consequences.