In September 2013 Paddy Power, in association with leading gay rights charity Stonewall, set out to tackle homophobia in football by distributing rainbow-coloured football laces (Rainbow Laces) to every professional player in the UK.
Why? Society and other sports have moved on. But there are more than 5,000 professional footballers across England, Scotland and Wales and none of them feels comfortable enough to come out as being openly gay. This scenario has odds of over a quadragintillion to one. (And no, Paddy Power will never take bets on the subject).
Last year, players from 54 professional clubs wore Rainbow Laces and there were 320million Twitter impressions as the public in the UK and Ireland showed huge support on social media. (Our main picture features just some of those who interacted with the campaign last season, lined up in a Vintage XI: Joey Barton, Ed Miliband, Olivier Giroud, Matt le Tissier, Boy George, Stan Collymore, David Ginola, Gary Lineker, Alan Pardew, Stephen Fry and Phil Jagielka.
Here’s a brief wrap on what happened in 2013…
Joey Barton was one of the first pros to lace up
— Joseph Barton (@Joey7Barton) September 15, 2013
The QPR midfielder was an ambassador for Paddy Power and Stonewall in the 2013 campaign (and kick-started the ‘laces as a hairband’ movement…). Nice work, Joey.
Social media exploded (in a good way, for a change)
The great Stephen Fry tweeted his support:
…while Gary Lineker tweeted Rainbow Laces from the Match of the Day studio on BBC1. This year #RainbowLaces replaces #RGBF (Right Behind Gay Footballers).
Get in! Leighton Baines scored this beauty (one of two strikes) wearing the laces for Everton against West Ham…
…and Olivier Giroud looked typically bloody gorgeous with a dash of rainbow
So it was a great start. But we must not be complacent. Paddy Power and our partners want to help drive genuine change in society and football, from the fans, to the players and everyone who loves the beautiful game.
Arsenal FC, Stonewall UK, talkSport, GFSN, Twitter, and the Metro newspaper are just some of those already supporting Rainbow Laces 2014.
Paddy Power can’t change that we’re shameless in seeking publicity. But we can help change attitudes to homosexuality in football.
- Tweet your support for #RainbowLaces. Tweet players, clubs or your pals to encourage them to show we’ve got the balls to change the game.
- How to get Rainbow Laces: You can get Rainbow Laces at any Paddy Power Shop (shop locator here) or via Stonewall here
- 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 technical terms that is over a quadragintillion.
- As a comparison, this is similar odds to predicting the correct score in 150 consecutive football matches.