Chief Executive of NHS England Amanda Pritchard believes that football clubs in the UK should think again about the amount of gambling advertising in the game. Ms. Pritchard recently spoke to Laura Kuenssberg about her concerns. She said that advertisements at football matches give young people the message that gambling is okay and have an adverse effect on the population overall.
Her comments come at a time when gambling addiction is becoming more widely recognised as a serious illness. The fact that 1,389 patients were referred for support regarding gambling issues in 2022-23 is an indication of how significant the problem is.
As a result of the size of the problem, the number of addiction clinics is increasing from eight to 15. Ms. Pritchard believes that more can be done, especially by professional football clubs in the UK.
Why do football clubs need to rethink?
As fans and players look forward to the next Premier League season, with clubs such as Liverpool, Manchester City, Arsenal, and Manchester United vying for success, football is already committed to making some changes concerning sponsorship by gambling companies on the front of matchday shirts.
Clubs have committed to ending this type of advertising by the start of the 2026/27 season. However, other kit sponsorship positions will continue, as will pitch-side advertising. So, there is still more that can be done.
Ms. Pritchard said she would love to see clubs think carefully about how they can do things differently and reduce gambling advertising, especially when young people can see it. She says that having the current levels of advertising in place is dangerous, especially when combined with 24/7 access to betting using the Internet with smartphones making this access especially easy.
Appeal to clubs is part of ongoing work to help with gambling addiction in the UK
Ms. Pritchard’s appeal is just one element of addressing problem gambling in the UK. Each online casino and betting site that is licensed by the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) is part of the GAMSTOP scheme that allows people to register once to self-exclude from all online casinos licensed in the country. People who play at casino sites not on gamstop that are licensed in other jurisdictions can also self-exclude, but they have to do so at the individual casino if they feel it’s necessary.
The UK Government is also working to alleviate problem gambling issues in the country. It published a white paper in April 2023 that included proposed measures such as a £2 limit on slot machine stakes. However, campaigners are not impressed with the lack of attention to the damage done by advertising.
This damage has contributed to the current climate, where it has been necessary to add more NHS facilities to deal with gambling addiction. These new clinics are in Thurrock, Blackpool, Derby, Liverpool, Sheffield, Bristol, and Milton Keynes.
Clinics already exist in Leeds, London (two clinics, one of which deals with gaming as well), Manchester, Newcastle, Southampton, Stoke-on-Trent, and Telford. Once the full set of 15 clinics are open, including those that are already in place, the NHS should be able to treat up to 3,000 patients each year.
Will Prochaska from the charity “Gambling with Lives” welcomes the new facilities. He says they are much needed due to the damage caused by gambling advertising. Matt Zarb-Cousin from “Clean Up Gambling” also spoke of the harm done by advertising and welcomed the new clinics. In a further plea for more to be done to protect people from gambling issues, Daisy Cooper MP said the government was “dragging their feet,” and the numbers of people suffering from gambling issues are a “wake-up call” that more needs to be done.