Nearly all premier league football clubs in the UK have snubbed a campaign to show support for gay footballers.
Gay rights group Stonewall UK and bookmakers Paddy Power called on footballers to wear rainbow-colored shoe laces for today’s matches to show they are against homophobia in the sport.
Everton, who are an official partner of Paddy Power, was the only premier league club to publicly back the campaign. Others said it was up to individual players’ choice.
Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur, Sunderland, Norwich City and Southampton have all confirmed that they will not be taking part in the campaign, The Daily Telegraph reports.
A statement from Tottenham read:
‘Whilst the campaign message is positive and one we support, there was unfortunately no prior consultation with ourselves, the premier league or other clubs. Such consultation would have enabled us to avoid issues in respect of associated third-party commercial entities.’
Several clubs said they found it difficult to back the campaign supported by Paddy Power, when that company was accused of transphobia for releasing an offensive advert in February 2012. Also, clubs said that the the campaign’s tagline ‘Right Behind Gay Footballers’ made it sound like a joke.
Stonewall justified their collaboration with Paddy Power, saying that their ‘huge reach’ made working with them worthwhile.
‘Their style is cheeky and authentic to them and can get through to fans and clubs,’ said Stonewall media manager Richard Lane. ‘The message is certainly tongue-in-cheek but it is going to get people engaged. The attention it’s receiving means it’s starting debates and that can only be a good thing.’
The hashtag #RBGF was trending today, with support from Ed Miliband, Stephen Fry, Match of the Day presenters Gary Lineker and David Ginola, openly gay Swedish footballer Anton Hysen and many amateur football clubs.
Despite his club’s lack of support, Norwich City’s Robert Snodgrass was seen wearing rainbow laces, as was Brighton & Hove Albion’s Casper Ankengren. Other non-premier league clubs Port Vale, Queens Park Rangers and Leyton Orient also backed the campaign.
Tottenham added that they have contacted Stonewall directly to let them know they support their work and want to discuss ways to work with them in the future.
‘We are committed to working with organisations such as Stonewall and other agencies to eradicate homophobia in football and society,’ the statement said.
Lane tweeted that he believes the campaign has been ‘a huge success’ and has started the ‘biggest debate’ on homophobia in the sport for a very long time.