Compulsive gambling victims beg clubs to drop betting sponsors

The Premier League has received an 11th-hour call from more than 100 victims of gambling problems as talk intensifies around a voluntary ban on betting companies sponsoring club shirts.

The proposals will be presented in full to club officials on Tuesday, but campaigners fear the option could be turned down after recent deals were struck by Fulham and Everton.

Other clubs have signaled they are open to some sort of crackdown to fend off the threat that the government will pass legislation that would make gambling sponsorship illegal.

The 20 clubs will not be rushing to a deal, however, especially as a white paper on gambling reform has been postponed until Boris Johnson’s replacement is found. A top vote is more likely in September, but the English Football League and the races are likely to be spared any crackdown due to the potential difficulties it could cause.

Although none of the so-called ‘big six’ clubs currently have betting sponsors on their shirts, anti-gambling campaigners claim betting sponsors have more influence on children in football than in any other sport.

On Monday, the Big Step, a campaign calling for an end to gambling advertising and sponsorship in football, published a letter from more than 100 people affected by problem gambling.

“Despite our preference for government action, we still believe football can do the right thing, regardless of what and when policymakers do it,” the letter reads. “We will continue to campaign in parliament throughout this legislative process, but we also urge you to vote to end gambling sponsorship. It is the least your clubs can do to prevent the devastation that we suffered doesn’t happen to anyone else.

“Rest assured that we will encourage clubs at all levels and in all countries to do the same – this is not exclusively a problem for Premier League fans. The stakes are high. The massive promotion of addictive products by the bias of our national sport is neither normal nor safe.Football – at all levels – is revered and trusted by millions of young fans around the world and that is why the game should not be hijacked to push online casinos, especially on jerseys.

“You are not just businesses, you are influential and trusted centers of your community. That is why you must take responsibility to protect all your fans – especially children – from something that takes hundreds of lives every year. A vote to end gambling sponsorship should be the start of global action that extends beyond the front of your shirts.

“Doing it alone is inconsistent. If you’re voting to accept the principle that gambling ads on shirts are harmful, then so are the same logos on sleeves, for ads flashing around your pitch, in your stadium and on your club website.”

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