Wayne Rooney is on his way to back to the UK, where he will be signing for Derby County on 1 January as a player/coach.
Many have questioned how Derby has even been able to secure the former Manchester United star, with his weekly wage rumoured to be around £100,000. But this isn’t the major talking point at present.
Despite the lucrative deal taking place, his move has been tarnished by the fact he will be wearing number 32 due to Derby’s sponsorship deal with operator 32Red.
The gambling industry is constantly under scrutiny, but this is now the case more than ever. The government has already clamped down on fixed-odds betting terminal maximum stakes (FOBTs), while credit card gambling is also under the spotlight.
To make matters worse for the industry, a documentary has recently aired on the BBC called “Can you beat the bookies?” where comedian Lloyd Griffith speaks to people suffering from gambling addictions.
Ross Kemp has also released a documentary speaking to gambling addicts, airing on ITV. The topic is very much in the public eye at present.
Elsewhere, Paddy Power announced its #SaveOurShirt campaign this season, un-sponsoring shirts for football clubs it has signed deals with this season, proving to be a popular stunt among football fans who are against the gambling industry.
So at a time when the gambling industry is being hammered more than usual, was it wise of 32Red to allow this to take place? I’m not so sure.
Derby’s owner, Mel Morris, has been surprisingly open about the club’s record-breaking deal with the operator, due to securing the services of Rooney.
He said: “The commercial opportunities this creates are widespread and significant. On the back of Wayne joining the club, we have been offered a record-breaking sponsorship deal with 32Red.”
Getting Rooney to sign for the club should bring in a sizeable profit gain through merchandise and attendance alone, and the need to exploit the transfer and involve 32Red so heavily has been truly baffling.
Rooney himself brushed off wearing number 32 as a big deal – but of course he would.
The 33-year-old said: “The number isn’t a big deal. I’ve worn many numbers through my career – 18, 8, 9, 10, 23 and now 32. The important thing was to come and help the team.”
Anyone would think Rooney had been well prepped before the unveiling. To be fair, he’s hardly going to complain, as it certainly won’t be him who is ridiculed for the sponsorship deal.
Let’s not forget, Rooney is perceived as a cult hero to many all over the world, and no doubt his shirts will be a huge hit with Derby fans.
It is worth remembering although children cannot purchase a shirt with a gambling sponsor, there’s nothing stopping them from having “Rooney 32” on the back of their shirt.
Now I’m not suggesting this is going to start forcing children to bet, but it is a publicity stunt that could cause more harm to the industry than good.
I for one, believe Derby should have been wiser and avoided the negative backlash which will inevitably come from this.
This signing has caught everyone off guard, much to the delight of some of those in the East Midlands. But for Derby and 32Red to use this as an opportunity to promote gambling, it seems like a poor decision in my eyes. Either way, the media and the government are going to have a field day with this one.