More UK football clubs have backed a campaign to remove all gambling sponsorships and promotions from the sport, as political pressure continues to mount on the upcoming Gambling Act white paper.
Lower league sides Lewes FC, Seaford Town FC, Newhaven FC, as well as Peacehaven & Telscombe FC, are all now supporting The Big Step campaign, led by charity Gambling With Lives.
Tranmere Rovers AFC, Luton Town, Forest Green Rovers, Billericay Town, Edinburgh City and Dulwich Hamlet have already backed the campaign.
Tom Webster, chairman of Seaford Town FC, said in a press release that people should have the freedom to gamble but football's relationship with gambling advertising is "unhealthy" and has become "more extreme".
James Grimes, founder of The Big Step, said his organisation will continue “campaigning hard to ensure the government puts young people first by ending gambling advertising and sponsorship in football through legislation”.
In November, The Big Step announced it will lead a new coalition called the Football Supporters Against Gambling Ads (Football SAGA), after MP Tracey Crouch’s football fan-led review of the game was released with no mention of gambling advertising.
Despite growing pressure from charities and lower league clubs, Premier League teams continue to announce new gambling sponsors and partnerships.
On December 1, Everton Football Club signed up online Asian-based gambling firm i8.BET as a new commercial partner.
i8.BET branding will be visible on match days around the team's stadium and on the club’s online platforms in Asia.
Everton’s new partner’s domain name is licensed in the UK through a white label agreement with Isle of Man-based TGP Europe Limited.
White label agreements are being assessed in the ongoing Gambling Act review, which is expected to release a white paper including its conclusions and any recommendations in the near future, although a specific deadline remains elusive.
As the release of the white paper edges closer, House of Lords members Baroness McIntosh of Pickering and Baron Watts of Ravenhead have called on fellow legislators to “take heed of the facts” and not give in to those campaigning for a reduction in all gambling – rather than just problem gambling.
The peers wrote that industry-led measures such as the “whistle-to-whistle” advertising ban for live sports events before 9pm have already helped reduce problem gambling rates from 0.6 percent to 0.3 percent.
Separately, the Labour Party announced that Lucy Powell is now the shadow secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport and Alex Davies Jones is the new shadow gambling minister, as part of a reshuffle.
Michael Dugher, chief executive of the Betting and Gaming Council, welcomed the appointments and praised their support of the land-based sector when it was closed down during lockdown.
"We want to play our part in continuing to support the economy and the public finances, as well as ensuring that our industry can continue to support sport and broadcasting," Dugher said, "as the government continues its Gambling Review and prepares to publish its white paper in the coming months."