Labour MP calls for an end to football sponsorship by betting companies

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ty Leader of the Labour Party Tom Watson has called on footballing authorities to tackle the ‘hidden epidemic’ of gambling addiction by ending shirt sponsorship deals with sports betting companies.

In a report on the Labour List website, Watson published figures showing that 25 of the 92 professional football clubs in the English and Scottish leagues held shirt sponsorship deals with sports betting operators. Of these 25 teams, 9 are in the Premier League, with a further 14 in the EFL Championship.

The UK Gambling Commission recently revealed that the number of people over the age of 16 deemed to be problem gamblers had grown by a third in three years, with over 430,000 people estimated to suffer from a serious gambling habit.

Watson said: “Football has to play its part in tackling Britain’s hidden epidemic of gambling addiction. Shirt sponsorship sends out a message that football clubs don’t take problem gambling among their own fans seriously enough.”

“It puts gambling brands in front of fans of all ages, not just at matches but on broadcasts and highlights packages on both commercial television and the BBC.”

At present, gambling firms are prohibited from sponsoring under-18 teams but with young fans being exposed to betting companies through both senior team sponsorship and advertising on football club websites, more and more people are calling for gambling firms to be barred from all sponsorship deals with football clubs.

The FA ended all of its sponsorship deals with sports betting companies following revelations regarding the betting activity of premier league footballer Joey Barton, who had reportedly placed over 1,260 bets over a 10 year period, directly contravening rules on player betting. However Watson has called on the football world to do more.

Watson added “With new evidence showing gambling addiction rising, at a huge cost to individuals and their families, to society and to the taxpayer, the clubs should follow the FA’s lead.”

“Just as tobacco companies were banned from sponsoring sporting events and putting their logos on branded goods because of the harm smoking can cause, it’s right that we recognise the harm problem gambling does and take gambling logos off football shirts.”

The Labour party are set to announce further proposals to curb gambling advertising over the coming months.

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