"Rainbow Russians" will donate £10,000 for every goal Russia score at the World Cup to initiatives that make football more inclusive to the LGBT+ community, with a minimum donation of £50,000.
High-profile campaign supporters – who will no doubt now be supporting Russia in today's opening match against Saudi Arabia – include the ex-Olympian Caitlyn Jenner, the former rugby star Gareth Thomas, the rugby referee Nigel Owens, the ex-swimmer Mark Foster, England women's football international Lianne Sanderson, the choreographer Louie Spence and the actor Christopher Biggins.
I’m now a Russia fan! To find out why, check out my video below for @paddypower and then you can show support too via #RainbowRussians COME ON RUSSIA!" #ad For more information, check out: https://t.co/zEEHBeykFL pic.twitter.com/reGGbYRJxm— Caitlyn Jenner (@Caitlyn_Jenner) June 13, 2018
Working with Attitude magazine’s foundation, Paddy Power says the donations will "challenge LGBT+ prejudice on and off the field, support footballers and those in the game in coming out, fund educational programmes in schools and colleges, and make grass-roots teams safe spaces for LGBT+ players".
This latest effort comes shortly after another contentious World Cup-related stunt from the bookmaker, which said "sorry" after a controversial polar bear advert prompted a social media backlash.
Poking the bear
The bookmaker has guaranteed the £50,000 minimum donation despite what it calls "Russia's suspiciously easy group".
A Paddy Power spokesman said: "Given that they invented Russian dolls, you’d be forgiven for thinking Russia wouldn’t have an issue with women being into other women.
"Likewise, their appreciation for bears is one shared around the world by the LGBT+ population, so it really is astonishing that they have not used their stewardship of this tournament to champion LGBT+ inclusivity.
"As a result, we’ve stepped in to help. When Russia 'Put-in' a goal, we’ll 'Put-in' £10,000 to Attitude magazine’s foundation, which will use the funds to make football more LGBT+ inclusive. I cannot wait to see the LGBT+ community get behind the Russians – or the Russians’ baffled reaction."
Attitude's publisher, Darren Styles OBE, added: "When Paddy Power approached us with this idea we leapt at the chance. The LGBT+ community has a long history of reclaiming and adopting behaviours, words and styles that were intended to discriminate against us, so for this tournament we’re adopting Russia.
"The World Cup is meant to be about inclusivity, but thanks to the hosts – and those who chose the hosts – this tournament (and the next, in Qatar) is taking place in a nation with laws that discriminate against the LGBT+ population.
"This is completely unacceptable, so we welcome the opportunity to benefit from Russia’s success and make unwitting allies of their national team. It will be hugely satisfying to see a goal from Russia send a message of equal love."
This article first appeared in Third Sector's sister publication, PR Week