Wayne Rooney's Derby shirt number 'exploits loophole in betting rules protecting children'

Wayne Rooney at Derby press conference
Wayne Rooney will move from US side DC United to Championship club Derby County as a player-coach in January 2020

A "loophole" in the regulations protecting children from being targeted by betting firms has been exploited by Wayne Rooney wearing the number 32 when he joins Derby County, according to a gambling industry expert.

The Rams have secured "a record-breaking sponsorship" deal with their shirt sponsor, online casino 32Red, "off the back of" the former England captain joining the Championship side.

Rooney's squad number at Pride Park will be 32 when he joins Derby in January, but the company denies it has anything to do with their sponsorship arrangement.

Although 32Red will not appear on any replica children's shirts, as prohibited by regulations, they can have Rooney's name and number 32 printed on the back of their kit.

The betting company said their agreement "complies with FA regulations".

However, Professor Jim Orford - a psychologist from Birmingham University who studies gambling - said: "It's obvious what it is there for, isn't it?

"It won't say 32Red, it will just be 32, but it clearly is meant to be a link to 32Red and people will start to associate the number 32 with gambling and gambling on 32Red.

"It is a loophole in the law.

"A lot of children won't understand it to start with but advertising is like that. A lot of people will understand it, while for others it will just be in the back of their minds and be subliminal.

"They are trying to just slip it in and get around that very sensible aspect of the regulations."

A spokesperson for 32Red said that it "wouldn't matter what number" Rooney plays in at Derby.

"As Wayne Rooney said himself during his press conference, the squad number means nothing. The number is a separate issue to the logo," the 32Red spokesperson added.

"The number is not important. Other players also wear the number in the Championship - 32Red don't have a trademark on the number 32."

Derby County and Rooney's representatives declined to comment when contacted by BBC Sport.

'A fuss should be made to the FA'

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Derby role 'too good to turn down' for Rooney

The betting firm also rejected the notion that they have taken advantage of a "loophole".

"Responsible gambling is at the heart of our business," the spokesperson said.

"We will next week talk further details about the deal that will have a wider impact on the Derby community, with Wayne Rooney involved in community initiatives. Our additional investment will also include responsible gambling initiatives."

The Football Association declined to comment as Rooney is yet to come under their jurisdiction because England and Manchester United's all-time leading scorer does not move back to the English game from Major League Soccer side DC United until January.

Orford, who runs Gamble Watch UK - an independent organisation that questions gambling policy in Britain - said the FA and Gambling Commission should both look at the arrangement and whether the number on the shirt is a breach of regulations.

"One of the basic principles of the Gambling Commission is that they protect children and young people," he said.

"It should be making a fuss about this, to the FA in particular."

In a statement, the Gambling Commission said "sponsorship arrangements must be undertaken in a socially responsible manner", with its rules adding that deals should not "be likely to be of particular appeal to under-18s" or "associated with youth culture".

Dr Alan Smith, the bishop of St Albans and the church's gambling spokesman, told BBC Radio 5 Live that he hopes Rooney adds gambling awareness work to his charitable causes.

"I'm puzzled because Wayne Rooney does such a lot of good work, he is a great role model for so many people and yet he doesn't seem to be aware of the other side of this issue - and that is the really, serious public health issue that we have got going on in this country," Smith said.

"Why doesn't he stand up and talk for victims and protect people that are vulnerable?"

BBC Sport also contacted the Remote Gambling Association but has yet to receive a response.

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