Some English rugby fans are crying foul over an ad Paddy Power ran during the 2019 Six Nations tournament this past February and March. Perhaps they were just miffed because Wales took the top spot – the first time it has done so since 2013 – after taking down Ireland on the final day. Regardless of the reason, several complaints were lodged with the Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland (ASAI) over the allegedly “racist” ad.
The Ireland-based company ran the ad in the Irish Times and the Irish Star, as well as posted it on its social media accounts. It read, Dear England, Sorry for the last two years of pain, suffering and humiliation. Another 798 and we’ll be even.”
History buffs will instantly recognize the tongue-in-cheek message carried by the ad. It refers to the 800 years Ireland has spent under British rule. This didn’t sit well with some, who called it “racist, offensive, anti-English in sentiment, stirring up anti-English feelings, and was both highly insensitive and bigoted towards English people,” according to the ASAI.
Paddy Power doesn’t see the ad as an attack on anyone, but, rather, a lighthearted jab that is similar to what sports rivals throw at each other all the time. The company explained that it was meant as satire and a response to the poor performance England has shown in ruby the past couple of years. It was also a reference to the “publicly debated English misfortunes since the Brexit referendum.”
Six complaints were lodged with the ASAI – certainly not an overwhelming amount. Those individuals were most likely overly sensitive and unable to handle rejection well, but the ASAI felt it had to intervene anyway. It essentially gave Paddy Power a light slap on the wrist, admonishing it for the language of the ad; however, it stopped short of issuing a fine. The ASAI explained that, since the ad was only offered for a limited time and is not consistently being presented, it didn’t need to take any further action.
Paddy Power has come under fire in the past for some of its ads, although the complaints have often been submitted by individuals with too much time on their hands and not enough to do. An ad that presented blind soccer players kicking a cat in 2010 received 400 complaints. As with the latest ad, it was meant as satire and the negative response was illustrative of certain people not having the ability to differentiate between real life and fiction.
Some of the complaints against the company have been warranted, though. After Barack Obama was elected President of the U.S. in 2008, the company put up odds on whether or not he would be assassinated during his term. That didn’t go over well with virtually anyone, as the death of a world leader should never be the subject of a bet, certainly not by a reputable bookmaker.