Now Vote Leave tries to weaponise football for Brexit battle
Previously it had been the Remain campaign - with its football-mad spin chief - who were desperate to talk about the beautiful game.
When it comes to weaponising football in the Brexit battle, the Remain campaign has been firmly on the front foot. But could that all be about to change?
Earlier this year, Britain Stronger In Europe brought football into the Brexit debate with a claim that leaving the EU would have “devastating consequences” for the competitiveness of football in the UK.
Karren Brady even wrote to chairs of all professional football clubs in England, Scotland and Wales setting out what her side called “the risks to UK football of leaving the EU”.
Then Britain Stronger In Europe’s Arsenal-supporting spin chief James McGrory was quick to seize on Arsene Wenger’s comment that Brexit “raises so many questions” for the Premier League.
“Leading figures in football are clear – leaving the EU would disfigure the beautiful game in this country,” insisted footi mad McGrory last month.
But now the Leave campaign is having a go at weaponising the beautiful game – by offering football fans £50m if they can correctly predict the outcome of every game in the upcoming European Championships.
The competition is designed to engage an audience who may not be particularly interested in the EU referendum debate, with the amount on offer designed to reflect the UK’s gross daily contributions to the EU budget.
The massive cash prize is available to any registered voter, although the odds of anyone winning are minute. The Brexit campaigners are, however, offering a guaranteed £50,000 prize to whoever gets the most correct results in a row. Would-be millionaires can sign up online at a dedicated website, 50million.uk.
Vote Leave’s campaign director Dominic Cummings said: “We want as many people as possible to know that we are sending life-changing sums to the EU every single day so we’re giving them a chance to win it. It’s a bigger prize than any one person has ever won on the national lottery.”
Britain Stronger In Europe director Will Straw hit back: “This competition is a con. The odds of winning this competition are 8 billion to one. The same length of odds as Vote Leave coming up with a coherent vision for what life would look like outside the EU.
“Given the £50m figure is a work of fiction, this is a political Ponzi scheme with Dominic Cummings acting as Vote Leave’s Bernie Madoff.”
It comes as the UK Statistics Authority has once again criticised Vote Leave over the campaign group's “misleading” claim that Brexit would save the UK £350m a week.
Straw said: “Once again Vote Leave put wild guesswork at the heart of their campaign and it is the British people who they are asking to take the risk.”