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“We need a respectful, mutual listening, free of ideology and predetermined agendas.” Pope Francis, Let us Dream, December 2020

Premier League must be questioned over relationship with gambling companies

The Premier League must be questioned over football’s relationship with gambling, a Christian advocacy group has urged.

Christian Action Research & Education (CARE) has called for a “serious public debate” on the issue and urged those in charge of England’s top football league, as well as other footballing authorities, to ensure that football fans are protected from the risks of gambling.

With the new Premier League season kicking off tonight, CARE has highlighted concerns over the scale of gambling advertising across England’s top two leagues.

The public policy charity has revealed that over half of the teams (60 per cent) in English football’s top two leagues have betting company logos adorned across their jerseys.

It has also called for a ban on sport betting adverts being shown on TV prior to the 9pm watershed.

With nine out of 20 (45 per cent) of Premier League teams and 17 out of 24 (71 per cent) of Championship League teams sponsored by gambling companies, Nola Leach, CARE’s chief executive, warned that it is more than evident that betting companies are side-stepping the ban on advertising to children by sponsoring football clubs and putting their logos on team shirts.

While gambling companies are not allowed to target children with their advertisements, Ms Leach warned that allowing their logos to be emblazoned across children’s footballing hero’s chests without proper context was effectively providing bookmakers with a loophole to get around the ban.

“Sponsoring football shirts is a way that bookmakers can side-step the ban on advertising to children,” Ms Leach told The Catholic Universe.

“Betting ads on sports shirts is highly irresponsible because it normalises gambling to a very young audience. Shown completely without context, these shirts are on the backs of children’s favourite players and this creates the illusion that gambling is harmless, fun and without consequences. We know that is not the case.”

Ms Leach warned that the problem is made more acute because under current industry regulations, sport betting ads can be shown around broadcast sporting events before the 9pm watershed.

“This problem is only made worse by the fact the 9pm watershed does not apply to sport betting ads when sporting events are broadcast,” she said.

“During the recent World Cup people were rightly dismayed by the sheer number of gambling ads being shown during afternoon games and throughout the tournament.”

CARE is now calling for the 9pm watershed to be extended to cover sport betting ads and the charity is also calling for a wider public debate on football’s relationship with the gambling industry.

“It is time we had a serious public debate about the troubling nature of the gambling industry’s relationship with football,” Ms Leach said.

“We have an epidemic of child problem gamblers in Britain and for the sake of protecting them and other problem gamblers surely we have to question whether the Premier League and other footballing authorities are doing enough to raise awareness of the risks associated with gambling.”

According to Gambling Commission figures there are 430,000 adult problem gamblers in the UK with hundreds of thousands more at risk of the problem.

There are also estimated to be 370,000 11-16 year olds who gamble on a weekly basis with 25,000 of them classed as problem gamblers.

This weekend’s Premier League fixtures:

Friday 10th August

Manchester United v Leicester City – 8:00pm

Saturday 11th August

Newcastle United v Tottenham Hotspur – 12:30pm
AFC Bournemouth v Cardiff City – 3:00pm
Fulham v Crystal Palace – 3:00pm
Huddersfield Town v Chelsea – 3:00pm
Watford v Brighton & Hove Albion – 3:00pm
Wolverhampton Wanderers v Everton – 5:30pm

Sunday 12th August

Liverpool v West Ham United – 1:30pm
Southampton v Burnley – 1:30pm
Arsenal v Manchester City – 4:00pm

Picture: West Ham United’s Mark Noble wearing his jersey with the ‘betway’ logo adorned across it.