Stonewall dismisses criticism of Paddy Power rainbow laces campaign

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Gay rights charity Stonewall has dismissed criticism regarding its campaign against homophobia in football after several Premier League clubs said they wouldn’t be able to support it because of the involvement of Paddy Power.

On Friday, Manchester United, Tottenham and Norwich refused to back the rainbow laces project because they believe it amounts to an advertising campaign for the bookmaker.

The campaign by Stonewall and Paddy Power is based on distributing and encouraging footballers across all 134 professional clubs in the UK to wear rainbow laces at matches this weekend.

Stonewall Media Manager Richard Lane said to “We’ve been overwhelmed by the support for the rainbow laces campaign. We’ve seen numerous players and clubs as well as the likes of Clarke Carlisle and Gary Lineker and tens of thousands of fans get behind the campaign. The Scottish Parliament, the Department for Culture Media and Sport and Ed Miliband have also shown that this is a priority for government and politicians too. We hope as many players as possible will show their support this weekend and get #RBGF.”

He added: “Stonewall hasn’t received a penny from Paddy Power for this campaign. They have, however, recently become members of our Workplace Diversity Champions programme, the largest programme of its kind in the world, and pay the standard membership rate of £2,500 per annum. This reflects their commitment to not only tackling homophobia in football but also making their workplace gay-friendly too.”

The Gay Football Supporters’ Network (GFSN) has praised Paddy Power for teaming up with Stonewall.

However, the group Football v Homophobia (FvH) has criticised Stonewall and Paddy Power’s “Right Behind Gay Footballers” slogan as relying on “sexualised innuendo and stereotypes about gay men”

“Our discomfort is with the reliance on sexualised innuendo and stereotypes about gay men and anal sex, as exemplified by the tag line ‘Right Behind Gay Players,” FvH said on Thursday.

Queen’s Park Rangers midfielder Joey Barton became the first high profile player to back the project on Monday.

Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker tweeted his support for the campaign and requested a pair of laces yesterday.

He intends to wear them on Match of the Day this Saturday.

Everton and West Ham have said they will support the campaign, with their players wearing the laces during this weekend’s clash.

Meanwhile Manager Arsene Wenger will allow Arsenal players to wear the rainbow laces in this weekend’s game against Stoke.