Twitter Removes William Hill Emoji from #ItsComingHome Hashtag ahead of England vs Croatia Semi-Final

Twitter has decoupled British bookmaker William Hill’s branding from the increasingly popular #ItsComingHome hashtag over the weekend as the social network drew criticism for its participation in the promotion of gambling services to underage users, The Drum reports.

Fans of England have been using the “It’s coming home” phrase over the past weeks to celebrate the team’s progress into this year’s World Cup. The phrase is part of the chorus of the 1996 football song Three Lions by The Lightning Seeds. The song was written to commemorate England playing host to the 1996 European Football Championship. The “It’s coming home” line, in particular, referred to the fact that football was returning to its homeland, England.

England defeated Sweden 2-0 Saturday to reach the football tournament’s semi-finals for the first time since 1990. As the team is gearing for its clash against Croatia on Wednesday, the #ItsComingHome hashtag has gained immense popularity on Twitter. The social network thus found itself in the middle of advertising controversy due to the William Hill branding appearing alongside the hashtag.

#ItsComingHome/William Hill Controversy

Prior to this weekend, the hashtag was accompanied by an emoji of a football kit featuring the William Hill logo. The gambling operator had sponsored the hashtag since the start of the World Cup as part of its promoted trends and First View Twitter advertising campaign.

According to data from the social network, the hashtag had been tweeted more than 1.5 million times since the beginning of the World Cup. It popularity is growing with t team’s the English team’s progression into the tournament. The hashtag has also been used by popular brands, The Drum notes, some of which are oriented toward teenagers and young adults.

The William Hill emoji accompanying the #ItsComingHome hashtag drew heavy criticism as the gambling-related branding could easily reach underage Twitter users. It is important to note that the social network allows users aged 13 or over to open accounts.

To show their protest against the bookmaker’s brand appearing after the popular hashtag, some have deliberately used a misspelled version to avoid adding the William Hill emoji.

Following growing pressure from advertising executives and other parties, Twitter said that it had removed the branding. The social network did not comment further on the matter. William Hill has not provided its comments yet.

England defeated Sweden on Saturday to secure its spot in the semi-finals of the Russia World Cup. The team is now set to face Croatia on Wednesday. The Croatian team beat Russia 4-3 on penalties Saturday night to set up the England semi-final. Croatia and England are set to clash at 9:00 pm local time on Wednesday. Luzhniki Stadium in the capital Moscow will play host to the match.

The other two semi-finalists – France and Belgium – are set to play tomorrow at 9:00 local time at the Saint Petersburg Stadium.

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