The upcoming football season will see almost 60% of soccer teams in England’s top two divisions engage in sport gambling-related advertising. In a report that was recently released, 17 out of 24 teams in the Champions League and 9 of the 20 teams in the Premier League will be sponsored by gambling companies.
Following the report, problem gambling experts have termed the relationship between betting and sports as disturbing and worrying. The United Kingdom has recognized the detrimental effects of problem gambling and gone ahead to enact measures that will deter gambling-related advertising. However, authorities have remained silent sports sponsorship and the effects it can have on betting.
According to a report that was recently published by the United Kingdom Gambling Commission, 430,000 people are classified as problem gamblers while another two million are at risk of becoming problem gamblers. Considering that the country has 65 million people, problem gambling is one of the country’s major challenges as it has affected a large proportion of the people.
The Gambling Commission also found out that 370,000 children of between ages 11 and 16 gamble at least once in a week. 25,000 of these children are problem gamblers.
As the sponsorship of professional football by betting firms increases, Sky Bet which is the gambling entity of Sky Betting & Gaming has continued to sponsor three of the English Football League (EFL) divisions. In addition, it has a huge presence in the Championship League. Its domination in sponsorship of England’s professional football and the effects it is having on football fans has remained a concern to the gambling addiction charities in the UK.
Britain’s online gambling industry is one of the most liberal and largest in the world. Last year, it generated a record £14 billion in revenue. Sponsoring professional football is one of the gambling firms’ strategies for increasing revenue.
Gambling experts have raised over the issue indicating that the relationship between gambling and professional sports was getting out of control. While commenting on the situation, Gambling Watch UK’s representative Professor Jim Orford said that the nation was in a worrying state. He indicated that there was evidence that gambling was becoming “normalized” in the country.
According to him, young people are the most affected and are increasingly developing a perception that “betting is part and parcel of following and supporting one’s favorite sports or team.”
Professor Orford expressed concern that free-to-play social media gambling is becoming popular among young people as players are encouraged to purchase virtual goods as part of their betting experience. Football has remained the most popular spectator sport in the UK over the years. As a result, more families are now attending matches every week or watching them from their homes. The increasing entry of betting firms in the professional football industry has led more gambling advertisements in each game.
Marc Etches, CEO at GambleAware commented that the society is having a generation of fans that believe for them to enjoy a football game they must place a bed. “Watching football and having a bet is becoming normalized but we’re not talking about it,” he said.
The EFL opined that sponsorship by gambling firms made a significant contribution to realizing financial stability in professional football. It, however, added that it is working with betting firms to ensure a “socially responsible” relationship between professional football and gambling is created.
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