Several complaints were lodged with the Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland (ASAI) over the allegedly “racist” ad Paddy Power ran during the 2019 Six Nations tournament this past February and March.
The company based in Ireland ran the ad in the Irish Times and the Irish Star and shared it on their social media accounts. It read, “Dear England, Sorry for the last two years of pain, suffering and humiliation. Around 798 and we’ll be even.” The tongue-in-cheek message delivered by the ad would immediately be remembered by history buffs.
This applies to Ireland’s 800 years of spending under British rule. It did not sit well with some who found it “racist, offensive, anti-English in sentiment, stirring up anti-English feelings, and was both highly insensitive and bigoted towards English people,” the ASAI said.
Paddy Power does not see the commercial as an assault on anyone, but rather a lighthearted jab that is close to what sports competitors are constantly throwing at each other. The company clarified that it was intended as a joke, and England has shown in rugby a reaction to bad performance over the past few years. It was also a reference to the “publicly debated English misfortunes since the Brexit referendum.”
The ASAI received six complaints–certainly not an overwhelming amount. Most likely, these individuals were overly sensitive and unable to handle rejection well, but the ASAI still felt it had to intervene. It essentially gave a light slap to Paddy Power on the wrist, warning them of the ad’s language; however, it stopped short of issuing a fine. As the ad was only available for a limited time and is not regularly portrayed, the ASAI clarified that no further steps had to be taken.
In the past, Paddy Power has come under fire for some of its ads, although the complaints have often been made by people with too much time on their hands and not enough to do so. An ad showing blind soccer players kicking a cat in 2010 was receiving 400 complaints. As with the latest ad, it was meant as a satire, and the negative response showed that some people were unable to distinguish between real life and fiction.
Some of the company’s complaints were justified, though. After U.S. President Barack Obama was elected in 2008, the company put up odds about whether or not he would be assassinated during his term. That wasn’t going well with virtually anyone, as a world leader’s death should never be a bet, certainly not a reputable bookmaker.