Gambling in football: Call on Prime Minister to ban betting sponsorship

By Alistair MagowanBBC Sport
Watford v Everton
10 clubs in the Premier League are currently sponsored by gambling firms

Campaigners will deliver a letter to the prime minister on Wednesday calling for an end to gambling sponsorship in football.

Gambling with Lives and The Big Step say football's relationship with betting is at "saturation point".

Of the 44 teams in the Premier League and Championship, 27 feature a betting company on their shirts.

"We believe there would be considerable support for a ban from fans," the letter says.

"A recent survey by the Football Supporters' Association found that only 13% of fans would be happy for their club to be sponsored by a gambling company."

The Football League's three divisions (Championship, League One and League Two) are sponsored by a betting firm.

The Big Step's James Grimes will hand the letter to 10 Downing Street after walking 100 miles to six different clubs with betting sponsors on their shirts - Reading, Watford, West Ham, Crystal Palace, Fulham and QPR - to talk to them about the dangers of gambling.

The letter also highlights a survey where gambling adverts and logos were visible on the BBC's Match of the Day for nearly 90% of the time.

There are 430,000 problem gamblers in the UK, with a further two million people at risk, according to the Gambling Commission.

"We are deeply concerned that impressionable young fans are being desensitised to the severe risks of addiction through gambling normalisation in football," the letter adds.

The two groups are asking for the government to ban betting advertising in football in the same way that tobacco sponsorship was phased out in 2005.

They want a change in legislation to include:

  • No gambling logos on any kit
  • No pitchside perimeter advertising for gambling
  • No in-stadium advertising of gambling companies
  • No sponsorship of any football league by gambling companies

New sports minister Nigel Adams told BBC Sport in January that football has "far too much dependency" on betting sponsorship and said there would be a review of the Gambling Act 2005.

In 2018, Britain's biggest gambling companies voluntarily agreed to a "whistle-to-whistle" television advertising ban.

But the letter by Gambling with Lives, which was set up by families of young men who have committed suicide as a result of gambling addiction, and The Big Step, created by recovering gambling addict Grimes, added: "We know there is considerable cross-party support for a major overhaul of the Gambling Act.

"The damage done by gambling is widespread and serious."

Michael Dugher, chief executive of the new Betting and Gaming Council, said: "We take our responsibility to protect young people and those at risk of harm incredibly seriously.

"As part of our safer gambling commitments, our members have already introduced a 'whistle to whistle' ban on advertising during sport; substantially increased funding for research, education and treatment; implemented new ID and age-verification checks; ended any suggestion of exclusive rights to screen FA Cup games and will ban betting with credit cards.

"We are determined to drive big changes across the betting and gaming industry. Millions of people regularly enjoy a flutter and do so safely and we will ensure that our standards are the highest in the world."

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