Paddy Power’s ‘offensive’ Liverpool Football Club ad escapes ban

A Paddy Power ad, making fun of 13 injured Liverpool Football Club players who sustained training injuries by stating they’d ‘never walk again’, has escaped a ban by the Advertising Standards Authority.

A poster for Paddy Power, seen in January in Liverpool, stated in large text “You’ll never walk alone”. Underneath smaller text stated “or ever again if you play for Klopp”. The ad contained an image of a wheelchair which stated on its back “Property of L.F.C”.

The ad was investigated by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) after two people complained, arguing the ad was likely to cause serious or widespread offence as it made fun of people with disabilities.

Paddy Power said that when the ad was produced Liverpool Football Club was at the centre of public commentary, because 13 of the club’s players were deemed unfit to play as a result of hamstring or leg injuries.

The betting brand stated it was widely accepted among professionals within the game that the injuries had resulted from high-intensity training techniques used by the club’s new manager, Jurgen Klopp.

Although Paddy Power said it could see that the ad may be distasteful, it believed it was not offensive as “it did not make fun of a disability”. Ocean Outdoor, who published the poster, agreed with Paddy Power.

As the ad was shown in Liverpool, the ASA believed many of the consumers who saw the ad were therefore likely to have some understanding of the context.
While it acknowledged that “particular care” must be taken to avoid causing offence on the grounds of disability, it considered the reference to not being able to walk was clearly and immediately connected to “playing for Klopp”.

The ASA stated: “We also considered the text on the wheelchair, which stated ‘property of L.F.C’, further emphasised that the wheelchair was specifically for those at the football club. In that context, we considered it was clear that the LFC players and their current injuries, rather than those with a disability, were the target of the humour.”

Although the ad may be seen as distasteful by some, the ASA ruled it was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence. As a result, the complaints were not not upheld.

It is not the first time Paddy Power’s ads have received complaints. In 2014, it offered bets on the outcome of the Oscar Pistorius murder trial. The ad regulator received 5,200 complaints about the ad and banned it for “bringing advertising into disrepute”. In July last year, it also sent a lorry from Dover to Calais, France, which included the headline “Immigrants, jump in the back! (But only if you’re good at sport)!”.

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