Paddy Power is supporting a major campaign in English football to counter discrimination against gay players.
The bookmaker has partnered with sexual equality charity Stonewall to send rainbow coloured laces to players at every one of the 134 professional clubs in England and Scotland and asked them to wear them in games over the coming weekend of September 21st and 22nd.
The campaign is being backed across social media as part of a ‘Right Behind Gay Footballers’ initiative with a twitter hashtag of #RBGF. It will also be backed by mainstream advertising and has already secured massive publicity.
QPR star and sometime twitter demon Joey Barton has leant his support while in Ireland Donal Og Cusack who is the highest profile sports star to come out openly as gay has also been tweeting his admiration for the campaign.
Stonewall deputy chief executive Laura Doughty told the BBC “It’s time for football clubs and players to step up and make a visible stand against homophobia. By wearing rainbow laces, players will send a message of support to gay players and can begin to drag football into the 21st Century.”
Incredibly there are no openly gay players in England or Scotland at present and only three have ever revealed their sexuality in the history of the game worldwide. Justin Fashanu tragically committed suicide after coming out in 1990 while Anders Hysen and Robbie Rogers, a team mate of Robbie Keane at LA Galaxy are the other two.
Cynics will suggest that Paddy Power is only getting involved for the publicity but that misses the point entirely that their doing so shines the spotlight on a cause that might otherwise struggle to gain attention.
Earlier this year the English FA produced a toolkit to help clubs deal with the subject but only got a response from 29 of the 92 clubs in the Premier League and Football League.
This will hopefully elicit a greater response and lead to a more open approach to something that is fully accepted throughout the rest of society. It is a shame on sport that it is not so there, at least yet.
From Wednesday, September 18th Sport for Business will run a short series looking at CSR campaigns involving sport and business around the world that have made a difference to communities.
Click below for details of the Sport for Business Events Programme