It’s time for football to kick its relationship with gambling into the long grass

As liberals we often dislike the word ban, but at times bans are needed.  I along with many others in the party feel it’s time that gambling adverts in football were banned.

Football has a gambling problem.  A game shown on TV can reference gambling firms 800 times with stadium advertising, shirt advertising and tv advertising. There is simply no way of escaping gambling related promotions. 

In the UK,  gambling related harm costs the UK economy around £1.7 billion and it is believed that 450,000 people are considered problem gamblers.  The craziest stat in this is that 45,000 children aged between the ages of 11-17 are considered problem gamblers. Tragically there are between 250-600 suicides a year in which gambling is a factor.

Gambling s worth very little to football.  Its investment in the top 5 leagues in Europe is £78.5 million which isn’t even 3% of the Premier League wage bill for a season. There are clubs from the Championship down to step 8 of the Football League Ladder asking for the government to ban gambling promotion in football. 

We have been here before with banning tobacco advertising which at the time  caused public outcry but now nobody bats an eyelid. 

I hope to bring a policy motion to a Liberal Democrat conference on this subject.  I think it’s vitally important we protect young people in this country from the idea that gambling is normal. We also need to protect adults who are at risk of gambling related harm. 

I am saying this as someone who adores football, who believes in protecting people’s mental wellbeing and who believes in doing all we can to protect lives and reduce that shocking suicide statistic. 

Would kicking gambling adverts out of football ruin your enjoyment of the game? Of course it wouldn’t, so let’s get protecting people.

* Sean Macleod is a Lib Dem member from Lewes.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • This is such an important issue. The Observer recently reported that the police are screening suspects for gambling addiction as it is believed to be driving crime. Gambling addiction causes misery not just for the addicted, but for the victims of crime as well.

  • Mel Borthwaite 4th Jan '23 - 9:58am

    I am sure this proposal will not go down well with Stoke City fans who attend home matches at the Bet365 Stadium…

  • Laurence Cox 4th Jan '23 - 12:26pm

    @Mel Borthwaite

    So a gambling company has naming rights for a football stadium. That isn’t any different to footballers’ shirts bearing gambling company names or the adverts around the pitch promoting gambling. This is a thoroughly sensible proposal that should be taken seriously.

  • Bigger issue for me is online gambling. I would ban online gambling altogether. If you want to bet then go to a betting shop

  • Peter Parsons 4th Jan '23 - 1:22pm

    @Mel Borthwaite

    The Coates family own both Bet365 and Stoke City (and other companies as well) so I’m sure the Coates could find alternative sponsorship routes if they needed to.

  • Kevin Hawkins 4th Jan '23 - 4:59pm

    Surely horse racing is far more involved with gambling than football. How many people follow horse racing who aren’t interested in betting on the races?

  • George Thomas 4th Jan '23 - 6:46pm

    Maybe I am being naïve, but this feels like yesterdays conversation. Football has a problem with new technology exploiting people (see John Terry selling NFTs or many clubs promoting crypto-currency which suddenly disappear); football has a problem with sportswashing and venture capitalism; men’s football still has a problem with accepting those from LGBTQ+ community and excessive alcohol intake; football has an environmental problem with private plane travel being so common even in tiny island of the UK and TV channels putting games on when public transport cannot be used; but does it really have a problem with gambling?

    Gambling adverts are seen in every ad break but every time they are on they’re telling us not to lose control and only bet what we can afford. In terms of how present they are during football, what more can gambling companies do? I’d argue that the issues with problem gambling is largely unrelated to football.

    “The craziest stat in this is that 45,000 children aged between the ages of 11-17 are considered problem gamblers.” How many children spent money on worthless NFTs? How many are addicted to energy drinks or carry knifes regularly? How many are being influenced by Andrew Tate’s mob?

    My personal opinion is that there are many issues in football and many bigger issues for children currently, but I’m not an expert so will pause now to read other comments and try to learn a bit more.

  • It used to be a Liberal/Lib Dem boast that policy should be evidence based. Sean Macleod is correct, and the evidence backs him up :

    New analysis shows problem gamblers are more likely …

    Gambling Commission › News
    23 Aug 2021 — The results showed that of those identified by the survey as problem gamblers, one in five (19%) had thought about suicide in the past year, …
    Problem gamblers at 15 times higher risk of suicide, study ……..

    The Guardian › society › mar › proble…
    13 Mar 2019 — The study found that suicide rates increased 19-fold among men between the ages of 20 and 49 if they had a gambling problem …

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