Paddy Power Sportsbook Apologizes, Deletes Video With Homophobic Slur

  • Social media video in operator's Fan Denial series featured fan using offensive term “rent boy”
  • Sparked outrage from LGBT community; Paddy Power admitted it had “messed up” 
  • Focus of objectionable video was last weekend’s FA Cup Final between Arsenal and Chelsea
  • Chelsea FC historic target for homophobia due to proximity to male prostitute hotspot
  • Currently no openly homosexual or bisexual male professional soccer players in UK

Gay Pride march
Dublin-based sportsbook Paddy Power has issued an apology and withdrawn a social media video in which a soccer fan uses homophobic language. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Video on social media showed fan using term “rent boy”

Dublin-based sportsbook company Paddy Power has retracted a video on social media containing offensive homophobic language.

sparked outrage from the LGBT community

A fan using the term “rent boy” – British term for young male prostitute – was featured in the video that appeared on Twitter as part of the Irish operator’s weekly Fan Denial series. It sparked outrage from the LGBT community, prompting Paddy Power to delete the video and to admit in a tweet that it had “messed up”:

Fan Denial is a weekly feature that centers on a specific soccer game and shows fans reacting in “ridiculous ways” to their club’s defeat. The focus of the objectionable video was last weekend’s FA Cup Final, in which English club Arsenal beat Chelsea 2-1.

Chelsea Football Club (CFC) is a historic target for this particular brand of homophobia, due to the South West London locale’s reputation for being the capital’s male prostitute hotspot. “Chelsea are rent boys wherever they go” is the common homophobic chant directed at CFC fans from rival supporters.  

Paddy Power draws heavy fire

Paddy Power’s video attracted a barrage of criticism from the UK’s leading soccer inclusivity campaign groups. Among them were Chelsea Pride, Proud Baggies, Gay Gooners, and Kick It Out.

Sanjay Bhandari, who was himself subjected to racial abuse on social media “minutes after” he was appointed Chair of Kick It Out in 2019, took to Twitter to condemn the advert:

The group also said that the phrase used has long been deemed “homophobic and unacceptable”. It called on operators to review any insulting marketing language and to “gain greater understanding of the impact of discrimination.”

homophobic and unacceptable”

The Gay Gooners, the first and largest LGBT+ fan group connected to a top-flight UK soccer team, also voiced their shock and disappointment. They addressed an email to Peter Jackson, CEO of Paddy Power’s parent company Flutter Entertainment.

“We know that homophobic language fuels the toxic atmosphere that often makes loyal LGBT+ fans feel unwelcome at football. By including that particular tweet, Paddy Power undermines its own work in challenging homophobia within sport,” the group said.

Chelsea Pride, the LGBT+ fan group for CFC, said the Fan Denial video “perpetuates the idea that this kind of ‘banter’ is acceptable” in soccer. It went on to say it was thankful the video was quickly withdrawn, but that removing it was “not enough”.

Lack of diversity in UK soccer

Paddy Power is no stranger to controversial marketing stunts, with its withdrawn video pouring fuel on arguments concerning lack of diversity in UK soccer.

While there are no openly homosexual or bisexual male professional soccer players in the UK, an unnamed English Premier League (EPL) soccer player recently revealed he was gay in an open letter. However, he wrote that he wasn’t ready to admit it publicly, Sky News reported.

There are currently only four black, Asian, and minority ethnic (BAME) managers in all four of English soccer’s top divisions. The sport’s lack of diversity has attracted increased attention since COVID-19 and the George Floyd riots, with players deciding to take a knee in support of Black Lives Matter, a move endorsed by the EPL.