A campaign which will see all professional footballers in England and Scotland encouraged to wear rainbow-coloured laces this weekend has been hit by a gay rights group withdrawing their support from the event.
Football v Homophobia, who were backing the initiative by Stonewall along with bookmakers Paddy Power, have hit out at the "sexualised innuendo" of the latter's advertising and awareness campaigns.
Adverts have been seen with the strapline: "Right behind gay footballers".
In a statement on their website, Football v Homophobia explains:
Our discomfort is with the reliance on sexualised innuendo and stereotypes about gay men.
We feel it is incongruous to run a campaign aiming to change football culture whilst using language which reinforces the very stereotypes and caricatures that, in the long term, ensure that homophobia persists.
A spokesman for Stonewall, quoted on Who Ate All The Pies, said:
We teamed up with Paddy Power for this campaign precisely because they talked the language of players and fans. The slogan is risque and tongue in cheek but we are proud that it is engaging with fans and players and that they are taking a positive stand. The entire campaign has been overwhelmingly positively received and we have been extremely pleased with the response.
Football's issues with homophobia are well-known, with very few players appearing to have the confidence to come out in public. American player Robbie Rogers, who has now returned to the LA Galaxy, is one of just three footballers to have come out.
The campaign has gathered a lot of positive publicity in the run-up to the weekend's fixtures, with many feeling that it is an issue that needs addressing.
Joey Barton, who played for QPR in midweek, was one of the first players to use the laces.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!