Forest Green Rovers have become the first professional club in England to call for a gambling sponsorship ban.
The English Football League has opposed a ban, with chairman Rick Parry telling BBC Sport it would cost EFL clubs £40m a season and could see some go under.
A ban is being debated as part of the 2005 Gambling Act review which should be completed by this autumn.
The “Big Step” campaign is part of the charity Gambling With Lives – established to support those bereaved by gambling-related harm. It is calling for the end to sponsorship, promotion, and advertising of all gambling in football.
The campaign was founded to raise awareness of football’s growing dependence on gambling. Through campaigning, events and partnerships with football clubs delivering community education and awareness programmes, the Big Step aims to tackle this growing issue.
James Grimes, Founder of the Big Step, said: “We’re delighted to have the support of Forest Green Rovers. This is a vital moment to secure meaningful gambling reform in the UK. As a recovering gambling addict and massive football fan, I’m passionate about ensuring the game is part of the solution to gambling harms.
“Our outdated gambling laws need to change, especially with the exponential rise of online gambling. Sponsorship of sporting events by tobacco companies is banned and we believe gambling should be the same. To be truly effective, shirt sponsorship, stadium promotions and other branding should not be visible during matches.”
Dale Vince, Chairman of Forest Green Rovers, said: “It’s like gambling has taken over football.
“If you watch a game on TV you are inundated with ads – gambling logos are on almost half of Premier League shirts, and constantly flash up on pitch side boards. For me, the fun already stopped. This is an abuse of football and of football fans.”
Forest Green Rovers – who refuse to take on gambling sponsorship, has pledged its support to the campaign. They will also work closely with Gambling with Lives and the Big Step to put an end to gambling advertising in sport, during a pivotal time for gambling reform in the UK.
There are thought to be 55 different gambling sponsorship or partnership deals with 44 football clubs in the top two divisions in England. Young people make up 25% of the audience of Premier League football and are exposed to gambling through shirt and league sponsorship, pitch side advertising, TV broadcast advertising, social media and endorsements by footballers.
Logos plastered across every fixture and ground are ruining the game for many struggling with addiction and risk drawing in more. There are 55,000 11-16 year old “problem gamblers” and 340,000 adult gambling addicts in the UK according to research.
The Big Step announced a partnership with Billericay Town FC in 2020 to highlight the dangers of gambling. Working with groups such as All Bets Are Off, Gambling with Lives and Gamban they aim to raise awareness of the ‘gamblification’ of football and seek to signpost people directly or indirectly affected by gambling addiction to the support they need.