The advertising watchdog has ruled that a TV advert that features a blind footballer accidentally kicking a cat is not offensive and does not need to be taken off air.
More than 1,000 viewers complained to the advertising watchdog about the advert for the Irish bookmaker Paddy Power – so far seen by an estimated ten million adults – which features two blind football teams using a ball with a bell inside it.
When the ball is kicked out of play, a cat with a bell around its neck runs onto the pitch, and is kicked into a tree by a player who mistakes it for the ball.
Of those who complained, 220 viewers said it was offensive to blind people while more than 1,000 complained on the grounds of animal cruelty.
Paddy Power told the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) that the ad “enabled them to promote and create awareness of a lesser-known sport”, “would enhance appreciation of the skill required by those who participated in the sport” and was “humorous and slapstick in nature”.
The company claimed it had received “extremely positive feedback from the blind and partially sighted community”.
The ASA claimed the ad “featured, and was supported by members of the England Blind Football Team” and that it was “unlikely to be seen by most viewers as malicious or to imply that blind people were likely to cause harm to animals”.
It concluded that the ad was “unlikely to be seen as humiliating, stigmatising or undermining to blind people and was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence”.
It ruled that Paddy Power had not breached the advertising standards code, either in its depiction of blind people or in its treatment of cruelty to animals.
A spokesman for the Football Association (FA), football’s governing body, which supports the national blind football squad, said only former international players had taken part in the advert, and so the part of the ASA ruling that said the advert was supported by members of the England team was “not strictly accurate”.
But no-one from the FA was available to comment further on the ASA ruling.
The world blind football championship is due to take place in England from 14 to 22 August.