Drogheda United have become the first League of Ireland club to back a UK based campaign to end all gambling advertising and sponsorship in football.
The Big Step campaign is part of the charity Gambling with Lives, which was set up by families and friends that lost loved ones to gambling-related suicide. Research suggests there are up to 650 gambling-related suicides every year in the UK.
There has been significant pushback on gambling-related sponsorship, including a decision by the FAI last year to rule out a betting-related partnership for the international team. This itself echoes a choice made by the GAA a number of years ago.
Last year, President Michael D. Higgins described gambling adverts accompanying sporting events as “dangerous” and said they were causing “so much damage to families”.
A 2021 Gambling Awareness Trust study estimates there are up to 50,000 people addicted to gambling in Ireland. Those addicted to gambling are up to 15 times more likely to take their own lives than members of the general population.
It was reported that in 2020 people in Ireland lost €1.36 billion gambling – the fourth-most out of any country in the EU – and accounted for 2.6 per cent of the EU’s total online gambling revenue, despite making up just 1.1 per cent of its population.
As a sector that is legal and regulated, there are no legal barriers to betting-related sponsorship here or in the UK and it is a major source of revenue for sporting bodies.
Just like alcohol and dangerous driving, there can be arguments made against it on the basis of the harm it does to some but that should be part of a rational debate, where clubs are entitled to make their own call.
“Drogheda United is proud to be the first League of Ireland club to join The Big Step,” said Chairman Conor Hoey.
“Family and community are at the heart of Drogheda United and, as a club, we try to maintain values that improve the lives of our supporters where we can.”
“Unfortunately, many of us involved in the club have seen the damage that gambling addiction can do to individuals and their families.”
“Increasingly we have seen how synonymous gambling and football have become, particularly in the UK, with a continual flow of endorsements by former players and celebrities to normalise this relationship.”
“Drogheda United is also calling on the League of Ireland to follow their lead and ban gambling sponsorship in the league.”
“We want to see this trend reversed in the UK and we want to stop it before it takes over the League of Ireland. We hope that our stance will be backed by other clubs in the league, and we hope that the League of Ireland can be the first league to self-regulate and ban gambling advertising in football.”
That may be a big ask with Shamrock Rovers and Dundalk both having the largest commercial deals in their history with gaming companies on their shirt fronts.
It will be interesting to see what the perspective on this is across all the clubs in our annual review of commercial activity across the League coming up in the next few weeks.
So far the highest profile English clubs to come on board have been the fan owned Lewes FC, Forest Green Rovers and Luton Town
Sport for Business Perspective
Just like alcohol and dangerous driving, there can be arguments made against gambling on the basis of the harm it does to some but that should be part of a rational debate, where clubs are entitled to make their own call. Stronger regulation in terms of advertising and sponsorship is coming down the tracks though it is a smart industry that has already been building up alternative ways of promotion such as the move by Live Score to secure Champions League streaming rights here last year. It is worthy of substantial debate over the coming months.
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Sport for Business Partners