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Swedish rainbow hockey club lands fresh support

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Swedish rainbow hockey club lands fresh support
Players from the Kiruna IF hockey club marching the Stockholm Pride Festival 2014. Photo: Annika af Klercker/TT
13:30 CEST+02:00
An ice hockey club in northern Sweden, which plays in the rainbow colours to support LGBT rights, has won several new backers after former sponsors pulled out following the shirt change.

Kiruna IF made international headlines in June when they announced they were going to play in rainbow coloured shirts for the new season. 

The move earned praise from activists and it was awarded with a certificate by RFSL (The Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights) as a result.

However, the move came at a cost and the club had to take a financial hit as some sponsors withdrew their support. The club was forced to axe staff and launched an appeal online to find new backers.

"We've received over 150 new members with the different appeals done on social media," Kiruna IF's chairman Johan Köhler told the TT news agency.

He added that the appeal has helped the club land a major new sponsor from a building contractor, and they were in talks with other national companies who wanted to support them.

"Since then we've even had private individuals donating money directly to us," said Köhler.

When the club made the rainbow shirt announcement last summer they said it was to stand up for gay rights, in a sport that is traditionally male dominated and considered to be macho.

Players from Kiruna IF have embraced the idea and marched in the Stockholm Pride festival to popular acclaim. The club has also made money by selling the shirts online for 500 kronor ($69) a piece.

"It is us taking up a stand, that LBT people are not going to be shoved aside, made fun of and heckled," Köhler said at Stockholm Pride where they debuted the colourful shirts.

The club intend to use their new cash injection to improve the facilities at their ice rink. Köhler said he was unsure whether they would be rehiring former staff who left as a result of the previous cuts.

"At the start people just clicked the like button on Facebook. But now many realise that a lot more is needed in order for us to reach out with our message," Köhler told TT.

The senior mens Kiruna IF team is currently second in the northern hockey league.  

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