Forest Green Rovers FC has become the debut English professional football club to join calls for a ban on gambling sponsorships.

Partnering with the Gambling with Lives charity, the League Two side – which has never taken on a betting sponsor – will participate with the group’s national the ‘Big Step’ initiative, campaigning for an end to sponsorship, promotion and advertising of betting and gaming in football.

“It’s like gambling has taken over football,” noted Dale Vince OBE, Chairman of Forest Green Rovers. “If you watch a game on TV you are inundated with ads – gambling logos are on almost half of Premier League shirts, and constantly flash up on pitch side boards. For me, the fun already stopped. This is an abuse of football and of football fans.”

Mark Palios, former Chief Executive of the FA and current Chairman of fellow League Two side Tramere Rovers, has also previously expressed his support for a gambling advertising ban in the past, saying that the sport’s links with the betting industry had gone ‘too far’, as reported by the BBC.

Established to support people bereaved by gambling-related harm, Gambling with Lives uses campaigning, events and partnerships with football clubs to deliver education and awareness programmes surrounding issues related to problem gambling.

“We’re delighted to have the support of Forest Green Rovers,” said James Grimes, Founder of the Big Step. “This is a vital moment to secure meaningful gambling reform in the UK.

“As a recovering gambling addict and massive football fan, I’m passionate about ensuring the game is part of the solution to gambling harms. Our outdated gambling laws need to change, especially with the exponential rise of online gambling.  

“Sponsorship of sporting events by tobacco companies is banned and we believe gambling should be the same. To be truly effective, shirt sponsorship, stadium promotions and other branding should not be visible during matches.”

Forest Green’s support for the Big Step campaign comes as sports betting sponsorships fall under increasing public and political scrutiny as the UK government continues with its review of the 2005 Gambling Act.

There are around 55 different gambling sponsorship or partnership arrangements active with 44 football clubs competing in the top two divisions in England, although a handful of Premier League teams held a meeting in late March to discuss the future of their respective agreements.

Prohibition of betting sponsorships by sports clubs has been touted as ‘the most likely outcome’ of the overhaul of British gambling legislation, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his cabinet have reportedly supported the idea.

However, the suggested ban has attracted some criticism, with Rick Parry, Chairman of the English Football League (EFL), arguing that ‘in the wake of the pandemic it would be catastrophic’ due to the significant loss of revenue betting sponsorships provide for lower tier football clubs.

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