Ants Weekly with Stephen Russell

Hello Ants, hope you are all well! On Ants Weekly this week I’d like to take the chance to discuss the increasing appearance of gambling within football. In recent years, it has become almost unavoidable and is bordering being an essential part of the game. I’m sure we’ve all seen countless gambling adverts while watching on the TV, or even on advertising boards at games! Gambling companies are prevalent as sponsors for both football teams and leagues; our top division is sponsored by Ladbrokes with our very own league being sponsored by McBookie! There has been an incline in the amount of pressure groups attempting to combat this but is that justified? Are betting companies within their rights to promote themselves in this manner?

You may have seen in the news that many major betting firms, including Sky Bet and Paddy Power, have voluntarily agreed to a “whistle to whistle” advert ban in light of the political movements against such advertisements. Jeremy Wright MP, the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, stated that it was a welcome move and he is pleased to see such action amidst public concerns. I’m inclined to agree. I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s ended up betting an extra few pounds after seeing a half time offer on TV – why else would they pay for them to be there?

In England’s top two divisions, over half of football clubs are sponsored by gambling organisations. Our country’s champions, Celtic, and fierce rivals, Rangers, both have the name of a betting firm across their jerseys. Are we normalising gambling behaviour or is betting a part of the culture in football?

The Gambling Commission releases a study in 2017 detailing gambling habits of 11-16 year olds. 12% were reported to have spent their own money on a bet up to a week before the survey with 11% using a parent’s account to gamble online. Shockingly, 3% even had their own accounts. On average, it was reported that most placed their first wager at the age of 12. I’ll even admit, I had placed more than a few bets before I reached adulthood – and so had most of my friends.

Another study was also released on problem gambling, conducted in 2015. Problem gambling is generally defined as gambling to the point where it affects other aspects of your life, such as relationships within your family or recreational pursuits. The report claimed that 63% of adults in the UK had gambled that year. If only Scotland is counted, this figure rises to 68%. 0.8% of adults are problem gamblers while 3.9% of adults were described as “at risk”. In context, this means that roughly 1 in 20 people over the age of 18 are likely to have experienced difficulty regarding gambling. However, remove women from the curve and this figure rises drastically. The report showed that 1 in 8 men aged 16-34 would have encountered such difficulty.

Should more be done to protect these groups of people or is that not the responsibility of these organisations? It’s a huge step forward for companies to voluntarily agree to advertisement restrictions but will that be enough? Gambling is now more accessible than ever – it takes mere seconds to place a bet from your phone – so it stands to reason that these advancements should come with further protection. Essentially, it all boils down to one question. Whose fault is problem gambling: the company or the user?

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences surrounding this so for any thoughts, stories, queries or feedback please email me at sjrussell23@outlook.com. I hope you’ve had a fantastic Christmas and a brilliant New Year, I look forward to hopefully speaking with you soon!

*As always these views are Stephen’s own and not the views of the club

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