UK Soccer Teams Plan Weekend Protest of Gambling Sponsorships

  • Teams are showing support for the “Big Step,” an anti-gambling sponsor group
  • Players will wear yellow shoelaces and shirts during warmups to show support
  • The EFL said banning its gambling sponsor would cost teams £40m ($45.1m) annually
  • There is possibility the government hears a long-awaited white paper on gambling reform
Closeup of soccer player's feet dribbling a ball
Several UK soccer teams are preparing to protest gambling sponsorships this weekend. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Lacing up 

A group of UK soccer teams will participate in a protest of gambling sponsorships in soccer during matches this weekend.

committed to removing gambling sponsorships from soccer

Various English Football League (EFL) and non-EFL teams will join the movement to kick gambling agencies out of soccer. Those who are participating in the demonstration will wear yellow shoelaces on their cleats to show solidarity with the “Big Step,” which is a group committed to removing gambling sponsorships from soccer. 

Gambling has sparked many well-publicized debates across the UK and within the sport. The pressure to remove gambling sponsors represents the next step in an inevitable clash between operators, lawmakers, and the public.

Battling gambling sponsorships

It’s no secret that the prevalence of gambling is constantly reaching record highs as many countries across the globe continue to grow their local markets. This growth has prompted debates over regulation in different forms, especially sponsorship in sports. 

The Big Step is one of many programs that are committed to “purifying” soccer by eliminating external influence from gambling companies. League One squad Forest Green Rovers and several non-league men’s and women’s teams are casting their votes in the debate by sporting the yellow laces this weekend.

League Two side Tranmere Rovers will show their support for the movement by donning yellow shirts during warmups in an FA Cup round one match against Carlisle United on Saturday.

demonstrations come during Addiction Awareness Week

The demonstrations come during Addiction Awareness Week. The UK is facing an addiction crisis, as the UK Addiction Treatment Group recently revealed an increase in problem gambling rate. Online gambling rates are also the highest they have ever been.

However, a ban on gambling sponsors has not yet received full support.

“The government has previously stated research did not establish a causal link between exposure to advertising and the development of problem gambling,” said the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC). “It should also be noted that betting operators’ logos cannot be used on children’s clothing…while the whistle-to-whistle ban has reduced the number of TV betting commercials viewed by children during live sports before the watershed by 97 percent.”

Future protests and change

The pressure to amend gambling laws has permeated all levels of conversation in the UK.

Earlier this year, the Premier League was reportedly ready to institute a ban on gambling sponsors but wanted the teams to arrive at that decision for themselves. Nearly half of the league’s 20 teams have gambling sponsors and several agreed to deals with their sponsors this year.

The EFL also came under fire recently for its partnership with Sky Bet after it was revealed that teams were profiting from the gambling losses of their fans. A rule eliminating payouts had been introduced years prior, but several teams were still receiving “legacy payments.”

clubs would lose £40m ($45.1m) per year without gambling sponsors

The EFL is unwilling to part ways with its longtime sponsor, estimating that its clubs would lose £40m ($45.1m) per year without gambling sponsors, which would completely destabilize their financial structure. 

There is a possibility that gambling reforms are implemented by recently-inducted prime minister Rishi Sunak, who took over for Liz Truss after her brief tenure concluded.

No Premier League teams are joining the movement as of yet – getting them on board could be crucial for achieving reform, as the league’s power and influence are superior to that of all the other EFL and non-league teams.