Neil Banbury: 32Red – Gambling operators can do more than just support a club’s performance on the football pitch

The English football renaissance in 2018 has been underpinned by a healthy mix of club sponsors, in which gambling companies have more than played their part, writes 32Red General Manager Neil Banbury.

Just this week, 32Red renewed its term as the Principal Sponsor of Derby County Football Club. Here, Banbury tells us more about the new deal, and why gambling companies can do more than just support a club’s performance on the pitch.

English football has never been stronger. Gareth Southgate’s England team won back our hearts at the World Cup, the top four divisions in English football are as competitive as ever as they head into the final weeks of the season, and England Women lifted the SheBelieves Cup for the first time last month.

It’s easy to forget that one of the reasons for its strength is the healthy mix of club sponsors – competition and opportunity in sponsorship helps clubs compete financially. And gambling companies have a part to play in that mix.

Because the context that underpins all of this is vital. In short, we must not forget that gambling is a legitimate and popular entertainment option in the UK. Millions of people gamble safely and responsibly every year. While we take seriously the 0.7% of gamblers who are classified as problem gamblers – and must continue to ensure we have robust mechanisms in place to support them – the overwhelming majority use platforms like ours in a responsible way to have a flutter.

Sponsors in sport also have a unique link to communities, places and people, and therefore a huge opportunity to make a difference. We can help support more than just the club’s performance on the pitch. At 32Red, we have done so in the past, through support for projects in England and Scotland including Rangers’ ‘Big Sleep Out’ that helped fundraise for Glasgow’s homeless. But sponsorship in sport could do so much more.

That is why we have today launched a new model of football club sponsorship – one that means investing in the local community, as well as the club. Football clubs have a unique ability to leverage the power of football to engage supporters and improve lives. So as part of the renewed terms of our sponsorship deal with Derby County, we have announced a significant, year long investment in, and partnership with, Derby County’s Community Trust to tackle men’s mental health.

The Mental Health Foundation say men from working class communities are the least likely group to either disclose a mental health problem to friends and family, or seek professional support – over a third of men (35%) waited more than two years or have never disclosed a mental health problem to a friend or family member compared to 25% of women. But they are also the group most likely to be football supporters.

That means sponsors and clubs are in a unique position to reach them using the power of football. And gambling firms have an important role to play in that. We support the football industry through our sponsorship, but it is clear that we should do more to make sponsorship truly benefit the whole community of a football club – tackling important issues like men’s mental health in an effective way.

It is vital that policymakers bear this in mind – and maintain the right of responsible, sustainable, licensed companies like ours to sponsor sport. We must not forget that the overwhelming majority of gamblers use platforms like ours to have a flutter; to enjoy themselves. The reality is that we compete for a share of their digital entertainment spend. Some people spend that money on watching films or their favourite shows on Netflix. Some spend it listening to music on Spotify. And others use it to have a flutter on the football or horse racing.

We can continue to build strong sporting organisations and strong communities through a revitalised sponsorship model – and I’m proud that 32Red are the betting and gaming company leading the way.

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