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Mon, 13 July 2020

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We need a blanket ban on gambling advertising in sport

We need a blanket ban on gambling advertising in sport

It is quite clear that the industry is tightening its grip on the world of football, says Carolyn Harris MP. | PA Images

4 min read

The advertising of the gambling industry in all sport is partly responsible for the endemic growth of gambling related harm in this country.

Gambling advertising in sport is widespread.  It is growing at a frightening rate, and nowhere more so than in the world of football. 

Britain’s favourite game is at risk of being overwhelmed by an industry that is putting profits above public safety and wellbeing.  With 1.8 million at risk gamblers in the UK and approximately 500 suicides linked to gambling each year, we need to see restrictions put in place urgently to protect young and vulnerable supporters from being bombarded by an industry that has shown time and time again how unscrupulous it really is.

With 27 of the 44 clubs in The Premier League and The Championship having shirt sponsorship deals with gambling companies and almost all clubs having an ‘official gambling partner’, it is quite clear that the industry is tightening its grip on the world of football.

The clubs have to take a more responsible approach to the deals that they enter into, and broadcasters also need to clampdown on advertising and acknowledge and improve their duty of care to their viewers.

But alongside this we also need to see huge improvements from the gambling industry regulators, who are currently overlooking the gross negligence by organisations that they are licencing when it comes to advertising.

On their website, the Gambling Commission state that “The Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP) Code requires that marketing communications for gambling must not be likely to be of particular appeal to children or young persons, especially by reflecting or being associated with youth culture….”.

Yet they are doing nothing about the barrage of advertising that is being openly aimed at the young and vulnerable who watch football or even those that play on games like Fifa 2020 – a firm favourite with many primary school aged children.

It frightens me how much influence this industry is able to have on children and on those who are already struggling with a gambling addiction.

These young people idolise the players from their favourite teams.  Clubs must take responsibility for this and realise that children will be influenced by whatever the clubs and the players are promoting and normalising.

And I know of problem gamblers who look at the shirt sponsors to find new companies to open accounts with.  It is blatantly obvious that the advertising of this industry in all sport is partly responsible for the endemic growth of gambling related harm in this country.

Live matches, broadcast games, television highlight shows and simulated computer games – so many ways for the logos of these companies to become part of everyday life for millions of people.

The gambling companies are using this means of advertising to prey on their victims. This industry is profiting from it, the football clubs and other sporting bodies are profiting from it and the broadcasters are profiting from it.  The only ones losing out are the ones who can least afford it; the ones who are cursed with an addiction; the ones who will grow up and spend their lives battling this demon; the ones who will be left with only memories of a son or daughter, a husband or wife, for whom the pain and suffering of the addiction that has gripped them became too much to live with.

The upcoming gambling review is our chance as Parliamentarians to change this.  Myself and my colleagues from the Gambling Related Harm All Party Parliamentary Group will be pushing for a blanket ban on gambling advertising in sport.  It is the moral thing to do and I will be urging all colleagues to support this.  We must do what the gambling industry, sporting organisations and the broadcasters are failing to do and prioritise the safety and wellbeing of supporters above everything else.


Carolyn Harris is the Labour MP for Swansea East and Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities.