Was Stonewall’s Rainbow Lace Campaign Naive?
By Stephen Graham on Tuesday, September 24, 2013
Clearly, any campaign that aims to help eradicate homophobia in the sometimes not-so-beautiful game has merit. Whether the recent attempts from LGBT equality charity, Stonewall, would have felt more worthwhile had they not also dished out another free round of publicity for a certain bookmaker, or had there been genuine consultations with the league and FA, is however up for debate.
The campaign to get players on the pitch wearing rainbow coloured laces was launched last week by Stonewall in partnership with Irish bookies Paddy Power. Announced Monday 16th, the campaign was well received amongst the footballing Twitterati and in the press, with Everton, Newcastle, Reading, BT Sport and Joey Barton all lacing up at the weekend weekend to ‘get right behind gay footballers’.
It does however seem a pity that Stonewall didn’t include the Premier League in the planning stages of the campaign. The league released a somewhat pithy statement last week that praised the underlying message of Stonewall’s campaign but suggested that had they been involved earlier in the process they could have “worked with Stonewall to consider things like boot deals, the use of particular betting partners, and other issues.”
Other issues perhaps like the tongue in cheek “Second Jobs for Subs” campaign that Paddy Power ran last year which lampooned various benched players – at Arsenal, Andrey Arshavin was ordered to go to “Block D toilets, what’s Russian for plunger?”
In 2012 the ASA also ruled Paddy Power’s Transgender TV ad for Cheltenham Races (which called on viewers to spot the “stallions” from the “mares”) as offensive and unsuitable for further broadcast.
So when boxes branded up in the green and yellow of Paddy Power arrived at clubs last Monday, with the tagline ‘Right Behind Gay Footballers,’ you could forgive scepticism.
Whilst it was great to see clubs like Everton get right behind the campaign from the off, it’s important to remember that the toffees are an official partner of the bookmakers.
Despite the sincerity of the campaign there is no doubt that it could have gone further and included more of the top league teams if there had been a more considered partnership and better forward planning. Currently, the campaign smacks of commercial opportunity and this obviously didn’t sit right with the clubs who chose not to back the campaign at the weekend, i.e. the majority of the league.
Stonewall needed to completely own the campaign and they needed to work with the clubs from a much earlier stage. Using Paddy Power to champion the campaign gave them a voice, but it wasn’t necessarily the correct one and their approach, not without its successes, was, in the grand scheme of things, a naive one.