The captain of England’s blind football team has criticised a TV advert that features a blind footballer accidentally kicking a cat.
More than 400 people complained to the advertising watchdog about the advert for the Irish bookmaker Paddy Power, which features two 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 accidentally kicked into a tree by one of the players.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has now launched an investigation.
Some viewers were concerned about the advert’s depiction of blind people, while some complained that it encouraged or condoned animal cruelty.
David Clarke, captain of England’s blind football team, who has more than 100 caps for his country, declined to be involved in the advert, which he said was “at best a cheap gag” and “in no way does justice” to the standards and fitness levels of England’s international players.
He added: “The people playing the game at the highest level are very, very fit and playing to a very, very high standard. The people on show were not really that athletic.”
Although he welcomed the publicity for the sport, he said he would “much rather the advert hadn’t happened”, particularly as the idea of accidentally kicking a cat was “obscene”.
Blind footballers across the country were approached individually, and some of those who took part are former England internationals.
But a Football Association spokesman said the advert was “not endorsed or supported by The FA or anyone involved with the current England Blind Squad”.
Tony Larkin, head coach of the England blind football team, said: “Personally, I hope the advert does not detract from the fact that blind football is a serious game and is both an international and Paralympic sport.”
He said that this summer’s world championships – which will take place in England from 14 to 22 August – would demonstrate that blind football is “a highly skilful and competitive” sport.
A Paddy Power spokesman said the company had “a long-held reputation” for “breaking the mould and doing things that are new and innovative”, and had “sought the advice and involvement of several blind charities” before making the advert.
He said the company had received a “huge amount of positive feedback from the blind or partially sighted community” following the advert.
The ASA will now decide whether there was potential for the advert to cause “serious or widespread offence” under its taste and decency clauses, and whether it should be withdrawn.