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Paddy Power Criticised Over ‘Offensive’ And ‘Anti-English’ Ad

A Paddy Power storefront in London

Paddy Power has been criticised over an “offensive” and “anti-English” advertisement.

The Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland (ASAI) has upheld a series of complaints against an advertisement for Paddy Power which was criticised for being racist and offensive to English people. The ad was part of a campaign run by Paddy Power’s parent company Flutter Entertainment during the 2019 Six Nations rugby tournament.

According to reports, the advertisement appeared in the Irish Times and the sports section of the Irish Star and Irish Sun, as well as on Paddy Power’s Facebook and Twitter pages in February 2019. It read: “Dear England, sorry for the last two years of pain, suffering and humiliation. Another 798 and we’ll be even.”

The ASAI received six complaints about the advertisement, which Paddy Power said was intended to reference the “poor performance of the English rugby team against the Irish rugby team over the previous two years” and debate “English misfortunes since the Brexit referendum”.

However, the ASAI issued a statement saying: “Complainants considered the advertisement to be racist, offensive, anti-English in sentiment, stirring up anti-English feelings, and both highly insensitive and bigoted towards English people. Complaints included that the content was confusing inciting to violence, inflammatory, harmful and hostile and bordering on incitement to hatred of all things English.”

Paddy Power’s Argument

In response, Paddy Power argued that the advert was “edge, humorous and engaging” and that it was never Paddy Power’s intention to cause offence. The Irish bookmaker than expressed regret for the offence caused by the advertisements but insisted that it wasn’t a rational response to the ad which they claimed had been “generally well-received”.

Paddy Power also argued that it was clear the ad was not ridiculing people or exploiting them but was making light-hearted and humorous references to historical relations. The firm finished its argument by claiming that the advertisement was “extremely popular” and did not create any backlash online.

The ASAI upheld the complaints against the bookmaker, stating that while the ad was intended to be humorous, its “references to pain, suffering and humiliation with ‘we’ll be even’ was likely to cause offence”. In an official statement on their decision to uphold the complaints, the ASAI said: “[The committee] considered that the content was neither prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and to society nor responsive to the diversity in Irish society.”

Since the advertisement only ran for a limited time during the 2019 Six Nations tournament, no further action was required against it. However, the ASAI Complaints Committee issued a reminder to advertisers to be more careful when making references to historical relations between countries.

The news comes weeks after football team Huddersfield Town was fined £50,000 by the Football Association for wearing a Paddy Power kit that breached advertising rules during a friendly game in Rochdale. The kit was worn for a publicity stunt to promote a responsible gambling campaign by the Irish bookmaker in which Paddy Power relinquished advertising space on all kits.

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