Paddy Power has stoked controversy yet again after revealing a "bold" design for new partner Huddersfield Town's kit. However, fans are convinced the move is nothing more than a PR stunt with the shirt risking the club a possible fine for breaching FA sponsorship guidelines.
The bookmaker made the unusual decision to splash its logo across the jersey in a sash-style design. When it launched on Wednesday morning (17 July) it was not only subject to Twitter derision but also accused of being marketing ploy designed to get people talking.
Fans even suggested the 'real' shirt would be unveiled during the club's friendly against Rochdale on Wednesday evening. The players, however, wore the sash-style kit.
One anonymous source with knowledge of the matter told The Drum "there are twists and turns" to come.
An FA spokesperson has also confirmed that it has "contacted Huddersfield Town about their 2019/20 kit to seek their observations," i.e. the football body is giving the club the opportunity to explain the details, and design, of the shirt.
The bookmaker, which is no stranger to controversy, announced its sponsorship deal with the club earlier this week, debuting its kit designs for the 2019/20 season on Twitter.
It would be no surprise if the kit was designed to incur a ban from The FA to drum up publicity, given the bookmaker's history of irreverent marketing stunts.
The brand also has a rich history of duping the general public to make a point.
During the 2018 World Cup it emblazoned a Russian 'polar bear' with the England flag to draw attention to the plight of the animal. Then, in the mist of the 2014 Brazil World Cup it 'shaved' the rain forest in a move that was later revealed to be a collaboration with Greenpeace.
One fan has even suggested the Huddersfield kit has been created to spark a wider debate about gambling sponsorship in the beautiful game.
This could be Paddy Power’s attempt to stoke negative sentiment about gambling companies being displayed on football shirts. The big UK bookmakers would be happy if the practice was banned, thus raising barriers to entry.https://t.co/ykY6J0Pijo — Pongolle (@pongolle365) July 17, 2019
The Drum has reached out to Paddy Power for further comment on the matter, at the time of writing it had yet to respond.
The advertiser sent out an earnest press release earlier this week saying: “As a brand which embraces doing things differently, we didn’t want to get into shirt sponsorship just to do the same as everyone else."
"We feel the diagonal design will be the most distinctive sponsor logo in the Football League – appropriate for the most distinctive sponsor there is."
The shirt, however, has drawn wide derision from all corners of the internet, with fans calling it "shocking" and "the worst kit of all time". One even suggested it "looks like a sponsored hen night".
Huddersfield's new kit looks like they aren't sure if they've got Liverpool at home in the PL or Ibiza away for Karen's hen do. pic.twitter.com/b9Vde9GdT3 — Gordon McGuinness (@PFF_Gordon) July 17, 2019
Who’s sponsoring this? Can barely see it — Jose Rodriguez (@_Joserg47) July 17, 2019
Others criticised the prominence of the gambling brand on a club shirt.
Huddersfield Town's new kit. Utterly dreadful. Hands up if you think football might have an issue when it comes to promoting gambling... pic.twitter.com/qo1K08Rxxr — Mark Samuels (@mark_samuels) July 17, 2019
Paddy Power and Huddersfield claimed they were "delighted to work on this bold new kit," but the logo on the shirt is in direct breach of FA regulations which state that there can only be one single area on the front of a shirt featuring a sponsor.
Both Paddy Power and Huddersfield Town trended on Twitter at the time of the launch.
It wouldn't be out of character for Paddy Power to cook up a storm on purpose: just last month it enlisted X-Factor judge Louis Walsh to egg on the European continent to vote for the UK in this year's Eurovision contest in a bid to avenge Brexit.
It has also disrupted football regulations before with a "classic ambush" during the Euros in 2012 when striker Bendtner scored and revealed 'lucky' Paddy Power briefs.