Forest Green Rovers FC has become the first professional English football club to call for a ban on gambling sponsorships, joining national campaign The Big Step.
Part of the Gambling with Lives charity, the Big Step calls for an end to sponsorship promotion and advertising of gambling in football, and was founded to raise awareness of the ‘growing dependence’ of the sport on the betting and gaming industry.
Gambling With Lives – established to support people bereaved by gambling-related harm – uses campaigning, events and partnerships with football clubs to deliver education and awareness programmes surrounding issues related to problem gambling.
“We’re delighted to have the support of Forest Green Rovers,” said James Grimes, Founder of the Big Step. “This is a vital moment to secure meaningful gambling reform in the UK.
“As a recovering gambling addict and massive football fan, I’m passionate about ensuring the game is part of the solution to gambling harms. Our outdated gambling laws need to change, especially with the exponential rise of online gambling.
“Sponsorship of sporting events by tobacco companies is banned and we believe gambling should be the same. To be truly effective, shirt sponsorship, stadium promotions and other branding should not be visible during matches.”
Forest Green Rovers has historically refused to take on gambling sponsorships and will now work with Gambling with Lives and the Big Step to campaign against betting advertising in sport.
“It’s like gambling has taken over football,” added Dale Vince OBE, Chairman of Forest Green Rovers. “If you watch a game on TV you are inundated with ads – gambling logos are on almost half of Premier League shirts, and constantly flash up on pitch side boards. For me, the fun already stopped. This is an abuse of football and of football fans.”
Mark Palios, Chairman of Forest Green Rovers’ League Two rivals Tramere Rovers has also expressed his support for a gambling advertising ban in the past, saying that the sport’s links with the betting industry had gone ‘too far’, as reported by the BBC.
Forest Green’s support for the Big Step campaign comes as sports betting sponsorships fall under increasing public and political scrutiny as the UK government continues with its review of the 2005 Gambling Act.
There are around 55 different gambling sponsorship or partnership arrangements active with 44 football clubs competing in the top two divisions in England, although a handful of Premier League teams held a meeting in late March to discuss the future of their respective agreements.
Prohibition of betting sponsorships by sports clubs has been touted as ‘the most likely outcome’ of the overhaul of British gambling legislation, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his cabinet have reportedly supported the idea, although Rick Parry, Chairman of the English Football League (EFL), has maintained opposition.