OPINION: Why something should be done about the Premier League’s gambling problem

Football has a gambling problem, but it’s the future of the young generation at stake.

As social media and smartphones evolve into an ingrained aspect of daily life, the gambling industry has become one of many to take advantage of the accessibility modern technology has to offer.

Take the recent Cheltenham Festival as evidence – with the absence of fans and open betting shops, it’s likely that punters’ reliance on gambling apps would have skyrocketed, and so, therefore, has the advertisement from the companies themselves.

However, football promotes betting in a somewhat subtle, yet entirely dangerous way.

It was announced earlier this year that the Government were considering banning gambling sponsors on shirts – potentially by the Autumn of 2021 – which is a positive step. But the damage has been done already, as recent years has seen the commercialisation of football correlate with the ever-increasingly obvious involvement of larger corporations.

The number of gambling companies sponsoring Premier League and Championship clubs dropped from season to season for the first time since 2013 ahead of 2020/21, with 19. In comparison, 2013/14 saw only five clubs sponsored by gambling firms, but a dramatic rise since then saw betting companies sponsor at least 50% of the top two tiers’ clubs for three consecutive seasons before the start of this campaign.

The rise in gambling firms’ visibility in football is bound to influence impressionable viewers – most likely, young people. Seeing their favourite footballers adorning the names of various betting sponsors on the shirts of their beloved clubs almost certainly has an impact.

A 2020 Young People and Gambling Survey, conducted on behalf of the Gambling Commission, found that “58% of 11-16-year-olds have ever seen or heard gambling adverts or sponsorship, of which 7% said this had prompted them to gamble when they weren’t already planning to.”

If we assume that there are millions of 11-16 year olds in the UK, that means you have hundreds of thousands of young teenagers being swayed to potentially put a bet on. That’s hundreds of thousands of our next generation gambling, before they can even buy a pair of scissors, or a Monster energy drink.

How will this affect the future? Well, we could get to a place where the majority of a generation are unable to handle their own money, and therefore become unable to hold down a job and support their family. Unemployment rates in the UK are already on the rise, but the potential problems caused by inevitable gambling addictions will only push those numbers upwards.

Next season’s Premier League could boast the bizarre record of becoming the first ever top-flight season to see all 20 club’s sponsors be something that you cannot physically touch.

There’s nothing wrong with this on the surface, but when you realise that gambling sponsors remain hugely prevalent on the front of some of the world’s most recognisable football shirts, it becomes something that needs to be addressed.

The Government’s intention of banning all betting sponsors is a positive step, but there is a lot of irreversible damage that’s been caused as a result of pure negligence from those in power.

Rectifying past mistakes isn’t possible, but avoiding future ignorance is pivotal to looking after the young people in our society, and mitigating the impacts of the subsequent years of financial struggle that await.

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