Football clubs in the UK were asked to discontinue their practice to link their social media channels to bookmakers as it could cause harm to people suffering or recovering from gambling addiction.
People affected by gambling harm including 50 former addicts sent a letter to 11 top football clubs from the English Premier League (EPL), English Football League (EFL) and Scottish Premiership (SP), criticizing them for offering match odds and links to betting websites when revealing their starting line-ups on Twitter.
Supported by MPs and leading clinicians, the letter sent to Arsenal, Manchester City, Newcastle United, Leicester City, Watford, Burney, Celtic, Norwich City, Birmingham City, Nottingham Forest, and Coventry City explicitly stated that such type of advertising causes stress to gambling addicts and people recovering from bad gambling habits.
The group also expressed concerns that children could get affected as they have unrestricted access to the social media channels hosting the adverts, which encourage sports fans to place bets, including promoting free bets with the bookie partner for the football club. These types of adverts also drew criticism from some football supporters.
The issue is raised in a moment when a review of the Gambling Act 2005 is underway by the government and gambling sponsorship is also part of the assessment in an attempt to overhaul the industry and create a safer gambling environment.
Having the support from MPs Carolyn Harris, Iain Duncan Smith and Ronnie Cowan, and coordinated by the Big Step charity, the letter concluded that clubs should take action and “stop these practices immediately to prevent gambling harm”.
“It’s painful to see brands associated with unimaginable harm when doing something as simple as checking their team’s starting line-up on Twitter. We hope that you will take this request seriously and we look forward to seeing your social media channels free of direct gambling promotion soon.”
Clubs Respond to the Letter
In a response to the request for comments, Manchester City and Newcastle United declined to comment, but Arsenal urged anyone struggling with gambling to turn to GamStop and seek professional advice and support.
“Our partnership with SportsBet is founded on a joint commitment to promote safe and responsible gambling. We are pleased to partner with an industry-leading organisation that takes its social and regulatory responsibility extremely seriously.”
Spokesperson, Arsenal FC
Coventry City and Watford also responded to the media request for comments, both emphasizing on the responsible way their official sports betting partners conduct their business.
“In line with English Football League guidance, the club and BoyleSports work closely to ensure that the promotion of any gambling products is conducted responsibly and in line with all appropriate licensing and regulatory guidelines.”
Spokesperson, Coventry City
Stressing on the importance for football clubs to play their roles in encouraging safer gambling, the spokesperson from Coventry City noted the club supported the Responsible Gambling Week initiative.
“Sportsbet are extremely pro-active in their support of safer and more responsible attitudes towards gambling.”
Watford also highlighted cooperation with RecoverMe app and the ongoing club support for the industry-specific services offered by the team behind the app.