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Calls for U-turn after Premier League blocks homelessness charity’s Boxing Day kit plan

Premier League bosses have sparked anger by blocking Shelter’s plan for home clubs to play in away kits to raise awareness of homelessness.

The Premier League is facing a backlash from the football world after blocking plans for home clubs to wear away kits on Boxing Day to raise awareness of homelessness.

According to Sportsmail, homelessness and housing charity Shelter approached the nine Premier League clubs hosting matches on December 26 to request their teams wear change kits as part of their plans to make the day an “annual event where football fights homelessness” for new campaign No Home Kit.

But some of the clubs – reportedly including Wolves and Brighton – were left stunned when the Premier League blocked the symbolic gesture.

The Premier League said it hadn’t rejected the plan – but stated clubs are encouraged to support charitable causes only when that support complies with its rules. The league’s rules around kits state the first priority is that outfield players for home teams should wear their home kits.

Rules do also state clubs are allowed to change their shirt sponsor once per season to support good causes.

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The lack of support for the initiative has incited a furious reaction on social media with former Manchester United defender and Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville leading the calls for a rethink, referencing past fan rebellions against pay-per-view matches and the mooted European Super League.

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Neville tweeted: “Imagine refusing a request to raise money and awareness for homelessness. A Johnson like u-turn on its way if the clubs push hard!”

As well as swapping kits to raise awareness of homelessness, the Shelter’s campaign, created in partnership with agency Dark Horses, would see clubs auction off home shirts signed by players.

The move is part of a multi-year campaign designed to broaden understanding of the housing emergency among football fans with Shelter targeting sport’s power to shift perceptions.

Shelter confirmed they plan to press ahead with the campaign which they are calling No Home Kit. The charity said the gesture will “powerfully show support” for more than 180,000 households who have lost their homes and been made homeless during the pandemic.

“We believe ‘home’ means everything. We want to use the positive power of football this Christmas, and our shared connection to ‘home’, to raise awareness of homelessness and what we can all do to fight it,” said Osama Bhutta, director of campaigns at Shelter.

“No Home Kit is a simple Boxing Day campaign where clubs and fans swap their home colours for their away or third kit. This will powerfully show their support for all those without a safe home today.

“We want as many teams, players and fans as possible to join No Home Kit and work with us to help those experiencing the harsh realities of homelessness this winter. Everyone involved in No Home Kit can do something special by bringing the entire football community together to fight the housing emergency.”

Aston Villa, Burnley, Brighton, Liverpool, Manchester City, Norwich, Tottenham and West Ham are all due to play at home on December 26 with Newcastle United playing at home the following day.

Shelter have also approached the EFL – the three divisions below the Premier League – to do the same in what they hope will be “their version of Save the Children’s Christmas Jumper Day”.

Neville was not the only one furious at the Premier League’s decision.

Max Rushden, who presents The Guardian’s Football Weekly podcast, also criticised the move on Twitter following the Premier League’s decision to approve a Saudi Arabia-backed takeover of Newcastle.

He said: “Rules mean they can’t help a homelessness charity. Rules mean they can let a country with an appalling human rights record buy a great football club.”

The decision to refuse the gesture has also faced criticism from fan groups who battle poverty.

NUFC Fans Foodbank is one of several fans food banks around the country that collect food on match days to distribute to people in the local area who are struggling to make ends meet.

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Stuart Latimer from the Newcastle United fans group told The Big Issue it makes sense for the “simple gesture” to go ahead. 

“It would be a simple gesture for The Premier League to allow this to happen,” said Latimer.

“People would naturally wonder and ask why their teams are wearing their away strip and not their home strip, acutely raising awareness for the charity Shelter and those without a home at a special time of year when most of us are safe, warm and surrounded by family, friends and festivities. I hope the Premier League find it in their hearts to reconsider.”

A Premier League spokesperson said: “The Premier League receives a large number of requests from charities every season however we aren’t able to support all centrally. Clubs area entitled to support charitable causes, and we encourage clubs to do so, provided it is in compliance with Premier League rules.”

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