Protesters to march over gambling industry’s involvement in football

Campaigners will walk through Edinburgh and Glasgow between February 11 and February 13.

Protesters to march over gambling industry’s involvement in football SNS Group

A campaign looking to bring an end to the link between the gambling industry and Scottish football is taking to the streets of the country’s two biggest cities.

Campaigners will walk through Edinburgh and Glasgow between February 11 and February 13 in protest against betting firms being involved in the sport through advertising and sponsorship deals

Scottish football’s most successful two clubs Celtic and Rangers are sponsored by betting companies and marchers will visit both grounds before finishing up at Hampden Park.

More than 40 people are due to take part in the walk which has been organised by an organisation founded with the aim of seeing the industry banned from football in the UK.

The Big Step was set up by a former addict and other recovering addicts and their families will be among those taking part in the event.

The online betting site Dafabet is the current Celtic shirt sponsor, while Old Firm rivals Rangers wear the logo of the 32Red online casino firm on their shirts.

The marchers will visit Celtic Park and Ibrox Stadium when they are in Glasgow on February 13.

The walk will also see campaigners visit a number of other clubs, meet their representatives and also with some elected politicians.

Starting in Edinburgh, marchers will visit both Hibernian FC and city rivals Hearts, before heading on to other clubs including Livingston, Motherwell, and Hamilton Academical.

Kelly Field, one of those who will be taking part, said her online gambling addiction was “fuelled by a relentless barrage of advertising”.

She said: “At my worst, I wasn’t eating or drinking properly – I felt suicidal at times and would gamble in the bathroom in secret.”

Explaining why she was taking part in her first march, she added: “Advertising and sponsorship, in football and elsewhere, makes people think that gambling is totally normal and safe, when the reality is very different.

“Gambling kills and football must stop promoting it. I know of people who have taken their own life when they couldn’t see any other way out.”

James Grimes, who founded The Big Step after being addicted to gambling for 12 years, said the organisation’s latest event “comes as we stand at a crucial moment”.

The UK Government is reviewing the 2005 Gambling Act, with some rumours suggesting this could see betting firms banned from shirt sponsorship in the English Premier League.

But The Big Step wants ministers to go further than this and end the promotion of gambling across all levels of football within the UK.

Mr Grimes said: “Decision-makers must put the health of young fans first and end all gambling ads in football.

“If they don’t, we encourage every club and governing body in Scotland – including the ones we are visiting on this walk – to be brave and to ban gambling sponsorship and advertising before the government makes the decision for them.”

He added: “We applaud Scottish football’s recent move away from gambling sponsorship of competitions, but much more must be done. This a unique chance to be on the right side of history and we hope fans will help their club make this decision.”

The UK Government received more than 16,000 responses to its call for evidence as part of the review of the Gambling Act, with a White Paper setting out the findings and proposals from this expected to be published in the “coming months”.

A spokeswoman from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said: “We are committed to protecting people at risk of gambling-related harm and are undertaking the most comprehensive review of gambling laws in 15 years to ensure they are fit for the digital age.

“We are determined to protect vulnerable people at risk of harm while giving adults the freedom to choose how to gamble safely.”

William Hill, Bet Fred and Ladbrokes have all been involved with Scottish football in recent years.

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