Wayne Rooney has been branded “highly irresponsible” over his multi-million pound deal with a gambling firm.
Rooney hit headlines earlier this week as it was announced that the former Manchester United star would be making his return to English football as a player-coach.
The 33-year-old will complete the current Major League Soccer (MLS) season with his current team, DC United, before joining Championship side Derby County in his new role.
However, Rooney will have some of his reported £90,000 weekly wage paid by online casino 32Red and will also wear the number 32 jersey for The Rams.
The former England captain and his new club have faced a barrage of criticism since the £7.8 million deal was announced on Tuesday, with condemnation coming from former international players and MPs.
Christian Action Research & Education (CARE), a Christian advocacy group that has continually called for a ‘serious public debate’ on gambling and its relationship with football, said it was deeply disappointed by Rooney’s decision.
“Wayne Rooney is admired by football fans around the country but this decision to so publically accept a deal involving sponsorship by a betting firm is deeply disappointing and highly irresponsible,” James Mildred, CARE’s communications manager, told The Catholic Universe.
Describing it as “yet another example of the troubling relationship between football and the gambling industry”, Mr Mildred said Rooney should consider the message this deal will send to his fans, especially young people and children.
“As the season kicks off today, half of Premier League teams and more than half of Championship teams are sponsored by betting firms,” Mr Mildred explained, adding: “This cannot be allowed to go on.
“We are facing a generational scandal with thousands of young people already addicted to gambling. It’s time for a serious debate about football and gambling. We believe it’s time to end gambling sponsorship on football shirts,” he added.
Meanwhile, the Anglican Bishop of St Albans, Alan Smith, said Rooney should make decisions in the interests of his fans, not his bank balance.
“Players need to start using their considerable power to reject gambling’s influence on football,” the Church of England’s gambling spokesman told The Daily Mail.
Bishop Smith, who is a peer and member of the parliamentary select committee inquiry into gambling-related harm, added: “Coleen Rooney is reportedly angry with Wayne’s decision to wear a football shirt adorned front and back with gambling ads, and so am I.
“Football needs to wake-up to the fact their shirt sponsorship deals will have a negative impact on the welfare of many of their fans, particularly children.”
In February, the Church of England’s governing body called for tighter regulation around gambling advertising.
At the time, Bishop Smith said: “More children gamble each week than drink, smoke or take drugs. This generational scandal sees young people immersed in social media and tech platforms where the gambling industry relentlessly promote their products as part of a £1.5bn annual spend.
“Football shirts are dominated by betting logos. Clubs must remove these logos and dismantle the wrap-around pitch-side adverts.
“Contrary to what some claim, advertising is influential. The evidence is available and shocking. Gambling advertising is pervasive and is remembered and understood by young people.”
Half of the Premier League’s shirts will feature a gambling company’s logo during the 2019-20 season.
In the Championship, 17 out of 24 club shirts will show a betting logo.
This weekend’s Premier League fixtures:
Friday 9th August
Liverpool v Norwich City – 8:00pm
Saturday 10th August
West Ham United v Manchester City – 12:30pm
AFC Bournemouth v Sheffield United – 3:00pm
Burnley v Southampton – 3:00pm
Crystal Palace v Everton – 3:00pm
Watford v Brighton & Hove Albion – 3:00pm
Tottenham Hotspur v Aston Villa – 5:30pm
Sunday 11th August
Leicester City v Wolverhampton Wanderers – 2:00pm
Newcastle United v Arsenal – 2:00pm
Manchester United v Chelsea – 4:30pm
Picture: Wayne Rooney poses for a photograph after signing a deal to become a player-coach at Derby County. (Andy Clarke/Derby County FC).