A new study on the UK gambling market showed that gambling advertisements and branding featured prominently in football clubs’ matchday programs, even in programs that were specifically broadcast for children. The study looked at 44 programs from the Premier League and showed that there were 2.3 gambling advertisements on average, quadruple the number of alcohol ads in the same programs. More than 1.2 million fans have access to the programs each matchday.
In addition to explicit advertisements for gambling, the programs were also found to contain a significant number of images related to gambling, such as player jerseys which had the logos of an online casino or bookmaker.
Experts from the University of East London, the University of Warwick, and Anglia Ruskin University observed that gambling images were present in 22% of the programs on average, with some programs containing gambling images in more than half their pages.
What was most concerning to researchers is that programs with sections marketed to children featured gambling content in their pages. Of the 44 programs reviewed in the study, 39 contained sections aimed at children; 59% of the programs contained gambling logos, images, and branding without any warnings for responsible gaming.
For instance, in a program intended for young fans of Birmingham City (pictured), one correct answer for a Spot the Difference contest was the logo for 888, an online casino. Another program, for the Blackburn Rovers, featured a 12-year old mascot with a shirt bearing the brand for 32 Red, a popular an online casino.
Football’s Gambling Sponsors Scrutinised
A spokesperson for Birmingham City clarified that the examples brought to their attention were published a little more than a year ago and no longer reflects the policies of the club. 888 have since ceased its sponsorship of Birmingham City.
Experts and observers fear that the proliferation of gambling images, advertisements, and branding in media can influence children to gamble, especially when such images are not accompanied by messages on responsible gambling. In response, gambling firms have initiated a “whistle to whistle” ban on TV advertising during live sports events. However, some experts believe that this gesture is self-serving and ultimately empty, because gambling logos and brandings are prominent even in football shirts and graphic overlays in post-match interviews.
Football clubs have been asked by some sectors to refrain from accepting sponsorships from gambling firms, to prevent children from glamorising gambling at an impressionable age. This may be a difficult undertaking: gambling firms sponsor half of Premier League teams this season, and 17 of 24 Championship teams.