Ban betting firms from sponsoring football shirts, says Tom Watson

Business News

Football must play its part if Britain is to tackle the “hidden epidemic” of gambling addiction, Tom Watson said today as he called for an end to shirt sponsorship by betting companies.

Labour’s deputy leader spoke out as he published figures showing 25 of the 92 professional football clubs hold shirt sponsorship deals with gambling firms, including nine out of 20 Premier League clubs and 14 out of 24 Championship clubs.

Watson’s intervention comes as it is revealed that 430,000 Britons are problem gamblers while more than two million people are either suffering from a serious gambling habit or at risk of addiction.

Gambling firms are already restricted by the Football Association and cannot sponsor under-18 teams but it is estimated that children face far more betting adverts than ever before, both online and as a result of exposure to senior team sponsorship.

Watson said: “Football has to play its part in tackling Britain’s hidden epidemic of gambling addiction. Shirt sponsorship sends out a message that football clubs don’t take problem gambling among their own fans seriously enough.”

“It puts gambling brands in front of fans of all ages, not just at matches but on broadcasts and highlights packages on both commercial television and the BBC.”

Labour is set to announce further measures to tackle gambling advertising in the months ahead.

Clubs have a “corporate social responsibility” not to promote harmful products, Watson added, highlighting the FA’s decision to terminate a sponsorship deal with a betting company.

“With new evidence showing gambling addiction rising, at a huge cost to individuals and their families, to society and to the taxpayer, the clubs should follow the FA’s lead,” he added.

“Just as tobacco companies were banned from sponsoring sporting events and putting their logos on branded goods because of the harm smoking can cause, it’s right that we recognise the harm problem gambling does and take gambling logos off football shirts.”