Football

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly: Football, Alcohol and Betting

In the first of a multi-part series from Impact Sport, Oscar Sephton takes a look at the issue of gambling advertising in football. The next part will focus on the case of Yerry Mina and PaddyPower’s #SaveOurShirt campaign.

Recently, the beautiful game has developed quite the blemish: Ray Winstone’s face appearing every five minutes to let us know that there’s money to be made on everything from corners to goals per 15 minutes. What Ray never mentions is just how much money there is to be lost. In the last few years gambling has become a huge problem for English football to a scale really seen only once before.

Statistics, such as that those affected by alcoholism are 6 times more likely to consider or attempt suicide, that record numbers of alcoholism related cases were seen by the NHS in the last two years, and that £14.4bn was spent on alcohol between April 2017 and March 2018, allow one to easily see why an organisation such as the Premier League looked to distance itself from the industry towards the end of the 2000s. But those statistics aren’t related to alcoholism, they’re related to gambling in sport, published in reports by GambleAware and the Gambling Commission last year. If the Premier League moved on from alcohol due to negative influences on consumers, why is the same being allowed to happen with betting companies, if this much damage is being caused?

…half of all teams in the English top-flight will be advertising gambling on their shirts…

Between 2010 and 2017, there was only one Premier League side sponsored by an alcohol company, and since Everton switched from Chang Beer to Sportpesa (ironically a betting firm), alcohol sponsorship has disappeared completely from the Premier League. However, when the Premier League kicks off on Friday, half of all teams in the English top-flight will be advertising gambling on their shirts, broadcast worldwide to every demographic. These numbers look even worse when you remove the “Big Six” who can charge bigger fees for sponsorship, none of whom are sponsored by gambling companies. That means 71% of those who don’t have global marketing reach are sponsored by these companies.

The problem of gambling advertisements is far more widespread than that of alcohol ever was…

And it doesn’t stop there. In the SkyBet Championship, 17 of the 24 clubs will be sponsored by a gambling firm, including Nottingham Forest. Not only that, but all 72 sides in the EFL will proudly display SkyBet’s logo on their sleeves. This adds up to a total of 82 football clubs in England advertising some form of gambling on their shirts, a truly staggering number to think about.

…it is easy to see how so many see this as a get rich quick scheme, and how easy it is to fall for the dream.

When alcohol advertisements became taboo, they were phased out. Why should the same not happen here? The problem of gambling advertisements is far more widespread than that of alcohol ever was, so there must be some form of action from the Premier League and the EFL. Gambling addiction is a real problem in our society and many who suffer from it may not be aware that they do.

Simply adding small print reading ‘When the Fun Stops, Stop’ does not do enough to erase the damage being done. Intrusive whistle to whistle advertising during half time, luring the public in with offers of huge returns just by guessing the number of bookings in the next 45 minutes, has been stopped, but that doesn’t mean that these adverts do not dominate the rest of programming on sports channels. In a time of financial uncertainty, it is easy to see how so many see this as a get rich quick scheme, and how easy it is to fall for the dream.

The prevalence of gambling in football is worrying, and something has to be done about it. Recently, Ladbrokes owner GVC called on gambling companies to scale back, while PaddyPower launched their own campaign to ‘un-sponsor’ the shirts of various clubs in England. These are steps in the right direction, but it will take action from the governing bodies at the top to make the beautiful game truly beautiful once again.

Oscar Sephton

Sources: 

https://www.gamblingcommission.gov.uk/news-action-and-statistics/Statistics-and-research/Statistics/Industry-statistics.aspx
http://www.gamblingcommission.gov.uk/PDF/survey-data/Gambling-behaviour-in-Great-Britain-2015.pdf

https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-body/gambling-addiction/

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Featured image courtesy of Cara Courage, license here

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