Football clubs in the UK have been warned that gambling is excessively “normalised” for children thanks to the prevalence of bookmakers as shirt sponsors at a time when gambling addiction rates are constantly increasing.
The Chief Executive Officer of the British charity organisation GambleAware, Marc Etches, explained that the amount and nature of advertising related to gambling services and such sponsorship deals make gambling look normal to people, and especially to under-aged individuals. According to Mr. Etches, the relationship between gambling services and football has already reached a point when the changes brought are getting more and more significant.
Recently, a meeting has been held between Mr. Etches and the Football League, with the GambleAware’s boss having requested direct discussions to be held with both the Football Association (FA) and the Premier League (EPL).
As Casino Guardian has previously reported, the number of gambling companies sponsoring Premier League football clubs has greatly increased since the first sponsorship agreement between an English Premier League club and a gambling brand was inked in the 2002/2003 season. Twenty years ago, not a single gambling operator was present as a football squad sponsor in the EPL until the deal signed between Betfair and Fulham F.C.
The last five EPL seasons have also seen a sharp increase in the number of gambling operators sponsoring English football squads, as there were only three companies as shirt sponsors in the 2013/2014 season, while in the 2018/2019 season their number rose to nine. There are 17 out of 24 clubs in the Championship which have bookmakers as their kit sponsors.
Problem Gambling Rates Rise in the UK in the Last Few Years
According to estimates provided by the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC), which is the major gambling regulatory body in the country, the number of gambling addicts in the UK has increased by 150,000, reaching a total of 430,000.
Over the past few years, UK gambling operators have been blamed for their aggressive advertising and marketing campaigns aimed at attracting more users to their services. Gambling advertising has risen to a record high at the time of live sports events aired on TV and has spread to various social media channels and websites which offer easy access to under-aged individuals. Anti-gambling campaigners have blamed bookmakers for that, saying they are lacking socially responsible behaviour and have called for the competent authorities to bring further restrictions for operators in order to protect local customers from possible gambling-related harm.
Back in April 2018, GambleAware revealed it entered a partnership with Crystal Palace, which is one of the clubs which have a bookmaker as a shirt sponsor. At the time when the partnership agreement was revealed, Mr. Etches called for the rest of the clubs to do the same. The charity organisation, which is engaged with helping problem gamblers deal with the negative consequences of their compulsive behaviour, has called for football clubs, leagues, as well as advertisers, broadcasters and administrators to start working together in order to help viewers understand the risks related to gambling. Recently, the charity has also issued a report to make it clear whether the increase registered in the number of bookmakers that sponsor local football clubs has contributed to the increase reported in problem gambling rates.