Many Premier League clubs refuse to wear rainbow bootlaces for anti homophobia campaign
Leading Barclays Premier League clubs are furious at attempts to make their players wear coloured bootlaces this weekend to raise awareness of homophobia in football.
Betting company Paddy Power and gay-rights charity Stonewall have been branded ‘embarrassing’ after sending the rainbow laces to every club without consulting them.
The campaign, launched this week, aims to help eradicate homophobia in football. But Liverpool, Manchester United and Tottenham are among those unhappy with the lack of organisation around the idea and will boycott the initiative.
Others are set to follow suit today, while some will leave the decision to individual players. Sportsmail understands representatives from anti-racism campaign Kick It Out and the Premier League have privately expressed concerns over the scheme.
As it stood last night, only Everton — who are an official partner of Paddy Power — had confirmed their players will take part, although BBC TV presenter Gary Lineker will support the campaign by wearing the laces on tomorrow night’s edition of Match Of The Day.
The clubs’ discontent stems from the lack of communication from Paddy Power prior to the laces being dispatched. Sportsmail has learned the first many clubs heard about the laces was whenthey arrived, with a letter from Paddy Power, first thing on Monday.
One Premier League club was left fuming after learning that a Paddy Power delivery worker took a picture of the laces being delivered to their training ground as proof the club had them.
‘We’ve not heard from Paddy Power other than when the box of laces arrived on Monday morning,’ said a leading official at a Premier League club. ‘In short, the whole thing has been embarrassing and infuriating.’
Given the sensitivity surrounding the issue, many clubs feel they have been railroaded into wearing the laces, fearing they could be portrayed in a bad light if their players do not participate.
Officials from numerous Premier League clubs have reservations over the idea. Many think it is a misjudged publicity stunt from the betting firm, feeling Paddy Power have jumped on an emotive issue in an attempt to gain maximum exposure.
But yesterday, after inter-club discussions, a decision was taken by the majority of top-flight sides not to fully back the scheme.
Some clubs, such as West Ham, point to the fact they have existing promotional contracts with other betting companies as a reason why their players won’t be taking part. Meanwhile, wearing the laces could go against some players’ religious beliefs, given their views towards homosexuality.
Manchester United are one of the clubs who will not wear the laces.
“The club supports the League’s central anti-discrimination efforts through Kick It Out,” read a United statement.
“It is a positive move that Stonewall are now speaking to the League directly, rather than working with a commercial provider on a campaign without involving clubs or players at any stage.”
Likewise, a Tottenham statement 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.
We are committed to working with organisations such as Stonewall and other agencies to eradicate homophobia in football and society.”
A Sunderland statement read: “The underlying message is a very positive one and something we wholeheartedly support.
“However, we were not entirely comfortable with the third-party commercial link.”
Meanwhile, Queens Park Rangers midfielder Joey Barton, Fulham defender John Arne Riise and former boxing world champion Ricky Hatton endorsed the initiative.
Paddy Power last night denied accusations that they had mishandled the campaign.
A spokesman said: “The rainbow laces and information were distributed to all clubs last Friday, three days before the launch, to give them a few days to discuss with players about supporting the campaign.”
From Daily Mail