‘Boro are delighted to support our Principal Sponsors Paddy Power in an initiative that has been launched today.

Paddy Power, in association with leading gay rights charity Stonewall, are setting out to tackle homophobia in football by distributing rainbow coloured  football boot laces to every professional player in the UK.

There are over 5,000 professional footballers across England, Scotland and Wales but none of them are openly gay – it is widely recognised that gay footballers are too worried about the impact on their careers and personal lives to ‘come out’ rather than there being no gay footballers, a scenario that has odds of over a quadragintillion* to one!

Paddy Power and Stonewall have created rainbow coloured football boot laces and distributed them to every footballer across all 134 professional clubs in the UK. Each of these players are being asked to wear the special laces in their club fixtures on September 21st and 22nd to show they support gay footballers. The simple message of “Right Behind Gay Footballers” is designed to kick start a fundamental change in attitude – it’s not about forcing anyone to come out.

Monday 16th September will see the start of a week’s worth of activity to shine the spotlight on homophobia in football. A series of media partnerships will see daily advertising and editorial support for the campaign across traditional media, billboard sites, and through social media with the aim of getting support from footballers, celebrities, fans, and the public.

Players can simply support the campaign by wearing the rainbow coloured laces in their weekend fixtures and using their extraordinary influence to set a benchmark in world sport. Fans, celebrities, and the general public can simply show their support by taking to social media and using the hashtag #RBGF, standing for Right Behind Gay Footballers, during the week and in the build-up to the weekend fixtures.

Paddy Power, the spokesman for the bookmaker, said; “We love football but it needs a kick up the a***. In most other areas of life people can be open about their sexuality and it’s time for football to take a stand and show players it doesn’t matter what team they play for. Fans can show they are right behind this by simply tweeting using the #RBGF hashtag whilst all players have to do is lace up this weekend to help set an example in world sport.”

Stonewall Deputy Chief Executive Laura Doughty said: ‘It’s time for football clubs and players to step up and make a visible stand against homophobia in our national game. That’s why we’re working with Paddy Power on this fun and simple campaign. By wearing rainbow laces players will send a message of support to gay players and can begin to drag football in to the 21st century.’ 

 

Background to the campaign

2013 has seen a significant shift in sentiment around homophobia in football and in sport generally. In February the FA created a toolkit for clubs to address homophobic discrimination with 29 out of 92 professional clubs signing up. In March Leeds player Robbie Rogers retired stating it was impossible to be gay and continue playing and then in May research showed that Brighton fans were being subjected to homophobic abuse at over 70% of away games**. These events have led to a spotlight being shone on the problem and a building wave of support around tackling it once and for all. Paddy Power in association with Stonewall want to give players, fans and the general public a platform to take a stand on this issue and set an example. Paddy Power hope for the campaign to be the beginning of a fundamental change in attitude and have ambitions to take the impact of the activity and extend this into next year, when the issue will be in the spotlight on a global stage.

About the laces

Rainbow football boot laces have been produced and distributed to all 134 professional clubs in England, Wales, and Scotland. Pairs have been sent to each club to cover the number of players in each first team squad and the laces have been given quality and performance tests in top flight football scenarios.

*The stats

  • There are 134 clubs across England, Scotland, and Wales in the Premier League, Championship, Football League 1, Football League 2, Scottish Premier League, Scottish Championship, Scottish League 1, and Scottish League 2.
  • There are approximately 5,000 professional players across these leagues.
  • We’ve done the maths and the odds on there being no gay person in a random sample of 5000, assuming a 6% likelihood, is 1 in 2.29 x 10^134.
  • In long form that number is 22,947,321,563,647,480,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000!
  • In technical terms that is over a quadragintillion
  • As a comparison, this is similar odds to predicting the correct score in 150 consecutive football matches

 

**Research

A report into homophobic abuse reported at Brighton & Hove Albion fixtures in the 2012-2013 season: http://gallery.mailchimp.com/38d8d5e8ac4afcc7ebb76a252/files/Report_into_abuse_at_BHA_games_March_2013.pdf