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Russia comes out…of its own World Cup

But Russia’s London embassy flies the rainbow flag to mark Pride weekend exit.

By Fabio Crispim

Russia’s London embassy was flying the Rainbow flag last night, with a message championing its country’s incredible donation to the LGBT+ community during this year’s World Cup.

Paddy Power, creators of the ‘Rainbow Russians’ campaign launched at the start of the tournament, has been donating to the Attitude Magazine Foundation for LGBT+ causes for every Russian goal scored. As Russia finally comes out, the campaign has raised an extraordinary £170,000.

So have we seen a turn in the road for Russia’s terrible LGBT+ rights record?

Well, all may not be as it seems – as Paddy Power have forced Russia’s hand and given the host nation the send-off it deserves, by projecting the Rainbow flag on its London embassy. It is Pride weekend in the capital, after all.

The projected message read: “We’re out! But we scored thousands for LGBT+ causes. From Russia with Equal Love”.

For every goal (and own goal) the host nation scored during the tournament, Paddy Power initially pledged £10,000 to fund a number of causes dedicated to making football more LGBT+ inclusive. 

That pledge was doubled for Russia’s knockout stage matches to £20,000 per goal. After knocking Spain out in the last 16, they finally fell foul to Croatia in the quarterfinals. But only after scoring twice, so that the host nation’s goals raised £170,000 for LGBT+ causes in the process.

The #RainbowRussians campaign has seen Paddy Power work with the Attitude Magazine Foundation, where 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
Make grass-roots teams safe spaces for LGBT+ players

Spokesman, Paddy Power said:

“We never thought we’d be sad to see them out, but we’re so glad Russia has finally acknowledged and celebrated the incredible impact they have made on the LGBT+ community at this year’s World Cup. It must have taken a lot for them to finally swallow their pride, come out and champion their donations…

“Hopefully, we’ve helped them realise the errors of their ways in years gone by and, perhaps, in future they will respect and embrace the LGBT+ community. Of course, we will be on hand if they ever need another nudge in the right direction…

“We’re also incredibly proud to say that, due to Russia’s success at this World Cup, not only have we donated £170,000, but also given the Russian football team a whole new LGBT+ fan base. Long may it continue!”

Darren Styles OBE, publisher of Attitude magazine, said:

“From first to last Paddy Power’s #RainbowRussians has been an inspiring campaign to be part of – a positive, uplifting and constructive approach to a set of circumstances that are far from ideal for the LGBT+ community.

“The award process of this World Cup tournament to Russia (where LGBT+ people are routinely hunted, abducted, assaulted and even murdered), and the next to Qatar (where homosexuality is illegal and punishable by imprisonment), was an international outrage that saw FIFA officials fired, prosecuted and jailed for bribery.

“And we don’t have to forget that when the football starts – as this campaign has demonstrated. We can engage, participate and educate while co-opting the host nation to play for us every bit as much as they play for their country. Which is hilarious.

“The £170,000 the Russian team has unwittingly earned the Attitude Magazine Foundation, thanks to Paddy Power’s generosity and genius, will deliver a legacy of more LGBT+ players, coaches and match officials – and change lives for the better and the longer term. And for that we salute the #RainbowRussians!”

The Foundation’s grants will be detailed within the pages of Attitude magazine in the months to come.