A Paddy Power video advertisement that mocks fans of English Premier League club Tottenham Hotspur, or Spurs, has been denounced by two UK charities for also making fun of autism.
The two-minute video titled The Spurs Fan Center imagines a fictional ‘Spurs Sensory Center,’ where fans of the club can go to work through their misery at their lack of trophies.
Inside, we discover the center is largely devoted to memorializing the misfortunes of hated local North London rival Arsenal, historically the more successful team.
“It would be a pretty [expletive] short experience if it was just about the good times at Tottenham,” explains the center’s manager.
We’re not totally obsessed with Arsenal. We have a whole section dedicated to Spurs and their recent achievements,” he adds, as the camera follows him towards a small washroom with three pictures hanging on the wall.
One bears the title “First football stadium with a cheese room.”
“Drink it in. Take your time,” he says.
Despite being one of the EPL’s so-called “big six,” Spurs has won just one trophy in the past 30 years, a League Cup.
‘Not a Punchline’
But Tim Nicholls, Head of Influencing and Research at the National Autistic Society, did not see the funny side of the betting operator’s skit.
“We honestly have no idea what Paddy Power thought the benefits of making this film were,” he told The Athletic. “We’re really disappointed they used the term ‘sensory room’ as part of a cheap jibe.
Sensory rooms are not a punchline — they’re an important way to support autistic people and their families to attend big sporting events, like football matches,” he added. “Without that safe and calming space, they might find the noise and large crowds completely overwhelming.”
Nicholls praised the recent work undertaken EPL clubs to make their stadiums more accessible for autistic people and their families.
All 20 EPL clubs have sensory rooms, which allow autistic people to watch the action through a window in a safe and calming place, where they will not be overwhelmed by crowd noise. This is something that should be “applauded not mocked,” Nicholls said.
Level Playing Field, a charity campaigning for inclusivity for disabled fans, said in a statement that the ad could be seen as being in “poor taste” and could undermine the hard work done by the clubs.
It’s not the first time Paddy Power has found itself in hot water over an ad spot. The company holds the record for the UK’s all-time most-complained-about advertisement. In 2014, during the Oscar Pretorius murder trial, the betting operator offered odds on the result, plus a “money back if he walks” promotion.
Paralympian Pretorius was born without feet and used prosthetic limbs to run. He was ultimately convicted of the murder of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, and sentenced to 15 years in prison.
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