Feature: The Turbulent Relationship Of Football and Gambling
It’s been reported than in 2018, 1 in 6 UK football clubs across all tiers received some kind of funding from gambling companies in return for sponsorship. The most recent example of a gambling company flexing its muscles can be seen with Wayne Rooney transferring to Derby, Bet 32 at the centre of the deal and have since become affiliated with the club in a multi-million pound deal that will see Rooney wear the number 23 shirt.
Much alike cigarettes and alcohol in the 80’s, gambling is now more commonly advertised and exercised than ever. However, it’s also been found that at present, children as young as 11 have problems related to gambling, something strongly linked to constant exposure via football.
So, if this is the case surely gambling companies shouldn’t be allowed to sponsor football? Well there are two sides to every story. On one hand you have what’s already been alluded to, gambling potentially causing direct harm to people interested in football, however the other side voices the argument suggesting it’s still someone’s personal decision to interact with gambling. Almost the ‘if someone told you to jump off a cliff, would you do it?’ approach.
However, thanks to the FIFA 2018 Russia World Cup, positive steps have been taken to decrease the amount of advertisement gambling companies can show on television. During the tournament, gambling advertisement accumulated to almost 1 ½ hours of on-screen time, something labelled by Labour deputy leader Tom Watson MP as “a downside to a brilliant World Cup”.
Since then, a new UK law has been put in place to stop gambling companies advertising within intervals of sport games before 9pm in order to protect young people, something the companies agreed to amid growing pressure to decrease gambling addiction.
However, of course it’s not just the adverts during intervals you see, but the logos and names scattered across stadiums and shirts alike within a football setting. Football finance expert Dan Plumley offered an insight into the deeper lying issues, for the football clubs themselves.
In a footballing world where Harry Maguire is worth 85 million, “football clubs will argue that they need the money from sponsorship of some kind, and so will ask, why shouldn’t we accept sponsorship from a betting company”.
Once more, it isn’t only the top divisions being mixed in gambling sponsorship controversy either, in November it was announced that Bet Victor would be the main sponsor of the Southern League, Northern League and Isthmian League, something many were displeased about.
On one hand, Northern Premier League chairman Mark Harris branded the deal as “excellent news” for non-league football, in the sense that the leagues can attract major co-operations to sponsor them and in turn will see a large cash injection.
Meanwhile, others promoted vastly different opinions, such as Paul Dipre, chairman of Carshalton Athletic, who admits being “very concerned” about the new deal, saying “there would have been other sponsors in different fields that would’ve been a more ethical choice”. Carshalton had previously turned down offers from gambling companies to sponsor the club, due to the “misery gambling has caused families”.