Big Step clubs call for the government to end football’s relationship with betting   

UK Gambling reform campaign The Big Step has submitted a joint-letter signed by the directors and executives of twenty English football clubs to DCMS, demanding that gambling advertising and sponsorship have no presence in football.

Comprising English Football League (EFL) and non-league clubs, the group underlined its support for The Big Step’s campaign to “kick gambling out of football” citing UK gambling’s existing relationship as having “had a negative impact on fans”.

The letter stated that football clubs’ desire to provide fans with safe environments was no longer compatible “with something that causes more than 400 suicides every year”.

The Big Step is the football campaign of gambling reform and suicide prevention charity Gambling With Lives, which has called for MPs to support a blanket ban on betting sponsorships and advertising across football grounds and media.

Despite UK operators adhering to a whistle-to-whistle ban on TV advertising, introduced at the start of the 2019/2020 football season, the measure was deemed ineffective by Big Step supporters.

The campaign claims that it has the consensus of fans, players and wider public support, “with the only barrier seemingly being the financial impact on clubs”.

The stance is supported by clubs such as Luton Town, Bolton Wanderers, Tranmere Rovers and Forest Green who challenge the notion that “football is dependent on gambling advertising and sponsorship revenues”.  

It noted: “As clubs without these partnerships, we can say categorically that we evidently do not need them. We have managed to source other forms of sponsorship and have attracted partnerships because of our socially responsible stance on this issue.”

A blanket ban on betting sponsorships/advertising has divided opinion across English football’s professional leagues. Senior figures at the EFL have railed against the potential rule change, insisting their cash-strapped clubs need the income generated from gambling firms to survive post-pandemic. 

Undertaking its review of the 2005 Gambling Act, DCMS has pledged that it will overhaul betting advertising and sponsorships in sports, in particular laws and standards related to football clubs and media.

The Big Step concluded that the government could no longer support football’s relationship with betting, as fans require solutions on fairness and the long-term financial stability of clubs. 

Currently, football leadership and UK gambling stakeholders await the publication of the DCMS White Paper on gambling reforms that is expected to be delivered after Easter.

Commenting on UK gambling developments, PM Boris Johnson and former DCMS leaders have previously stated that a ban on football shirt sponsorships will be a likely outcome of the inbound review.

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