Forest Green Rovers chairman urges football clubs to ditch gambling money

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The chairman of a West Country football club has urged teams to ditch their ties to gambling firms after backing a new campaign.

Dale Vince, who runs Forest Green Rovers, believes gambling can cause “social harm” and is concerned about the “prevalence” of advertisements in sport, particularly football.

His club has now partnered with The Big Step, an organisation which supports recovering gambling addicts.

Members of the group staged a walking demonstration at the New Lawn prior to Rovers’ pre-season match against Swansea on Wednesday 28 July.

The Big Step was set up to tackle the issue of gambling in sport, particularly football.

‘We’re saturated by gambling adverts’

The club, which competes in League Two, has previously refused to accept gambling sponsorship.

Mr Vince said it was a matter of principle, and urged other clubs to do the same - even those which may be struggling financially.

“Gambling does social harm and we’ve seen an increase in the prevalence of gambling adverts, gambling sponsorship in football, in the past two or three years,” he said.

“We’re saturated by gambling adverts and what that does is normalise it and encourage people to do it.

The Big Step campaign is part of the charity Gambling With Lives, which was established to support those bereaved by gambling-related harm.

The initiative was founded by James Grimes to raise awareness of football’s growing dependence on gambling.

James Grimes founded The Big Step.

“I can honestly say if I was still gambling during lockdown, I don’t know if I’d still be here telling this story now,” he admitted.

“It’s a perfect storm of boredom, isolation and access to screens all day. We live in a society where gambling is promoted on social media, on TV, at football matches. It’s inescapable.”

A spokesperson for the Betting and Gaming Council said there is insufficient evidence for a blanket ban on televised adverts.

Instead, the spokesperson said a "whistle to whistle ban" - used during the Euros - works better.

“The whistle to whistle ban, which prevents TV betting commercials being shown from five minutes before a match until five minutes after, before the 9pm watershed, has led to a 97 per cent reduction in the number of such ads being seen by children at that time," the spokesperson said.

“It also led to the number of TV betting commercials broadcast on ITV during Euro 2020 falling by almost half compared to the 2018 World Cup.

“Meanwhile, 20 per cent of our members’ TV and radio ads are safer gambling messages.”

Where to get help

For help and advice on gambling addiction:

  • Call the National Gambling Helpline on 0808 8020 133

  • Visit the Be Gamble Aware website.

  • Visit the GamCare website.