Football has “far too much dependency” on the gambling industry, the sports minister has warned.
Nigel Adams MP has stressed that clubs “need to look at different sources of income”, while Christian Action Research & Education (CARE) urged society to treat the unhealthy relationship between football and the gambling industry as a major concern rather than the “harmless fun” it is presented as.
“We’re going to be reviewing the current Gambling Act and I’m sure the link between sports – football in particular – will form a part of that,” Mr Adams told BBC Sport.
He noted that the relationship between football and the gambling industry needs looking at “carefully” as it could lead to problem gambling and further “serious social problems”.
“In some cases people have done drastic things and taken their lives, so we are looking at this very closely,” he added.
Commenting on the issue of betting firms being used as shirt sponsors, Mr Adams pointed out that such deals can cause problems for clubs, such as Huddersfield Town, who earlier this season were fined after breaching regulations.
“Occasionally it boils over and you get incidents like you had with some clubs who get into bother over it, like at Huddersfield Town, and the stunt there,” he said.
“So there’s way too much dependency, and I’m sure the football authorities are aware of that.”
The FA charged the Yorkshire side, known as The Terriers, with misconduct after they wore a shirt advertising Paddy Power during a pre-season friendly with Rochdale last July.
The Championship club were fined £50,000 and was warned over its future conduct after the team unveiled a controversial new home kit featuring a large Paddy Power sash logo, which appeared to exceed the FA’s guidelines of 250 square centimetres.
The kit was later revealed to be part of a stunt and was replaced by a sponsor-less version as part of Paddy Power’s ‘Save Our Shirt’ campaign.
However, Christian advocacy group CARE pointed out that such stunts and relationships between betting firms and football clubs purports that gambling is “harmless fun”, while in reality it ruins lives.
“We think the sports minister is on the money in suggesting football is ‘too dependent’ on the gambling industry,” James Mildred, CARE’s Communications Manager, told The Catholic Universe.
“It should be of the utmost concern to all who care about supporting those with gambling addictions that the world’s most popular sport is so linked to betting firms.”
He pointed out that in the Premier League alone, half of all teams are sponsored by betting companies, while in the Championship this figure raises to 15 clubs and the Football League itself is sponsored by Sky Bet.
“This glamorises gambling, presenting a false and misleading impression that it all just harmless fun,” said Mr Mildred.
“The truth is that problem gambling ruins the lives of those who struggle and their families.
“We very much hope the Government’s promised review of the Gambling Act will include shining a spotlight on the nature of the industry’s relationship with the beautiful game.”
This weekend’s Premier League fixtures
Saturday 8th February
Everton v Crystal Palace – 12:30pm
Brighton & Hove Albion v Watford – 5:30pm
Sunday 9th February
Sheffield United v AFC Bournemouth – 2:00pm
Manchester City v West Ham United – 4:30pm
Picture: A smartphone user accesses the Paddy Power gambling website while watching a football match on television. (John Stillwell/PA).