British footballers will stage their first on-pitch protest against the ill-effects of gambling this weekend, with more than 100 players showing their support for bookmakers’ advertising bans.
Players in the FA Cup, Scottish Women’s Premier League Cup, Women’s Championship and non-League games will wear yellow laces as they try to increase pressure on the government to act.
League One side Forest Green will be part of the protest in their FA Cup first round tie at South Shields, a match broadcast live on the BBC. Club owner Dale Vince said his club was proud to support the initiative, organized by lobby group The Big Step.
“Gaming companies exploit football and football fans, making huge profits at the cost of people’s lives,” Vince said. “Their overwhelming presence in our national sport is hyper-normalising an addictive harmful product, with only self-regulation to protect the millions of young fans at risk. This is something Forest Green Rovers opposes.
“We will proudly wear yellow shoelaces this weekend to reinforce our support for the campaign to end all gambling advertising in football.”
Lewes women’s, Glasgow City and non-league men’s teams Dulwich Hamlet, Billericay Town, Llantwit Major, Headingley AFC and, on Tuesday, Lewes men’s team will also wear the laces. League Two Tranmere will warm up in yellow T-shirts ahead of Saturday’s FA Cup first round tie against Carlisle.
The Big Step calls for an end to advertising and sponsorship of gambling in football, a sport where young fans and viewers can be subjected to over 700 gambling-related messages during a televised Premier League match . Recent data from the Gambling Commission showed that while overall levels of gambling participation have remained stable over the past year, the percentage of 16-24 year olds who identify as problem gamblers has increased than tripled.
A review of gambling laws was commissioned by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport in 2020, with a ban on bookmakers’ logos on football shirts one of the reported outcomes. Two years later, a white paper proposing reforms has been delayed four times and has yet to be published.
James Grimes, the founder of Big Step and former gambling addict, said: “This weekend is a bold reminder to the government that campaigners for gambling reform and our supporting football clubs will not leave until people won’t be able to go to a match and support their heroes without being encouraged to play.
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