Rainbow laces worn against homophobia across FA matches

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Players across the Football Association wore rainbow laces in matches today in support of efforts against homophobia in football.

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

But several top clubs say they can’t support the project because they weren’t adequately consulted.

Premier League clubs, including Manchester United, Tottenham and Norwich, have refused to back the rainbow laces project because they believe it amounts to an advertising campaign for bookmaker Paddy Power.

Players from Norwich and Newcastle United wore the rainbow laces, and Newcastle manager Alan Pardew also wore them. BT Sport pundit David James laced his boots with the rainbow laces from the gay rights charity.

A statement from Norwich said: “We will not be asking our players to wear the Rainbow Laces this Saturday but we are committed to combatting homophobia and all other forms of discrimination in the game.

“We firmly believe football is an inclusive game which everyone should be able to enjoy watching – and playing.

“Norwich City Football Club is proud to have included our great former striker Justin Fashanu in our Hall of Fame and has worked with the Justin Campaign and Norwich Pride on activities at the Club to celebrate his life, with his niece Amal Fashanu.

“We are one of 29 professional clubs to have signed up to the Government’s Charter Against Homophobia and Transphobia and welcome continued efforts to tackle homophobia on and off the pitch.

“We’ve had positive discussions with both Stonewall and Norwich Pride this week and invited them to meet with us to talk about our on-going work in this important area.”

Everton – who are sponsored by Paddy Power – said in advance that they would support the campaign, with their players wearing the laces against West Ham.

Despite Everton being the only team to ensure that all players wore the laces, many from across the league wore them, however many were against it because of Paddy Power’s involvement.

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, intending to wear them on Match of the Day today.

Meanwhile, the group Football v Homophobia (FvH) 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.

The Gay Football Supporters’ Network (GFSN) has praised Paddy Power for teaming up with Stonewall – although some question the merit of working with the controversial bookmaker.

Paddy Power had a TV advert suspended in 2012 after it encouraged viewers to guess the gender of women at the Cheltenham horse racing festival.