English clubs not behind “commercialised” anti-homophobia campaign

BartonAll bar one of England’s Premier League clubs have said that they have been left “frustrated and angry” by how the rainbow laces campaign to support gay footballers which was launched without consultation with the clubs.

The gay rights charity Stonewall has linked up with betting firm Paddy Power to send laces to all 92 professional clubs in England, as well as the 42 professional clubs in Scotland.

Everton are the only English club to have confirmed their backing of the initiative whilst north of the border, Stenhousemuir are the only Scottish club to have publicly confirmed their backing.

The general tone of arguments from English clubs has been that a serious topic has been ambushed by a cynical marketing campaign.

Premier League champions Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur have confirmed they will not be partaking in the rainbow laces initiative, as have Sunderland, Norwich and Southampton.

An official statement on the Spurs’ website 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.

“We have contacted Stonewall directly and let them know that we are supportive and keen to discuss ways in which we can work together going forward.”

Joey Barton (pictured) has been one of the most outspoken professional footballers to speak out against homophobia in general and the Stonewall rainbow laces campaign in particular and he wore the laces in his clubs 0-0 draw with Brighton on Wednesday.

Fulham goalkeeper David Stockdale confirmed on Twitter that he planned to wear them. His club, though, are another irked at the way the initiative has been handled.

In a statement, Fulham said: “The players have been given the opportunity to wear the laces, entirely at their discretion.

“The underlying message behind this campaign is a good one, and we work hard to ensure the whole equalities agenda is something we are engaged in.

“This campaign was initiated without consultation with clubs or the League. Had we been involved earlier in the process we could have worked with Stonewall to consider it more carefully.”

Chelsea said they backed the principles of the campaign but had some issues with it – namely its commercial connections.

A Chelsea spokesman speaking to Sky Sports News said: “It’s important to say everyone at Chelsea is fully committed to tackling all forms of discrimination and we already work with organisations on this front.

“While we fully endorse the principles behind this particular campaign, we have a number of issues with it in its current form, not least the tone of messaging, the lack of consultation and the seemingly commercial part of it too.

“As such we’re not planning to support it this weekend, but we would welcome further consultation with Stonewall and get them together with the football authorities and the clubs so that we can work together to come up with a more sustainable campaign.”

A Paddy Power spokesman insisted the response to the campaign had been good. He said: “Six days ago this issue was on nobody’s agenda. Now everyone in football is engaging in it. The powers that be seem concerned a week is not enough notice. How long does it take to change a pair of boot laces though?”

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