England legend Peter Shilton has condemned the EFL gambling deal which has seen clubs cash in on their own fans’ gambling losses, as Forest Green Rovers owner Dale Vince has called for football to get rid of the game for good his gambling habits.
Under the EFL’s agreement with Sky Bet, clubs would get a percentage of a punter’s losses if they registered with the bookmaker through their club. The deal started in 2013 and the practice was only curtailed in 2020, with some clubs still being paid for losses suffered by their fans until 2020.
Shilton, who won 125 caps for England, captained his country and won two European Cups and the league title with Nottingham Forest, has spent much of his life battling gambling addiction and is now campaigning against the saturation of game advertisements in football.
Peter Shilton has slammed the EFL for their current deal with Sky Bet which benefits fans
Shilton said: “I’ve been saying for quite a while that football has an unhealthy relationship with gaming in terms of sponsorship.” It seems that the football clubs were taking the money instead of taking care of their fans.
“From my point of view, this is just one example of how some clubs work. There are advertisements on shirts and on notice boards in all stadiums. Football has always been a family game and I don’t think it’s good for a family
“I know the clubs are desperate for money, but they seem to be getting it for astronomical wages. It is a question of value and football must be watched. Gambling ruins lies, there’s a suicide a day, men and women getting addicted. A Public Health England report from September 2021 cited 409 suicides a year linked to gambling addiction.
Shilton added: “I never said we wanted to ban gambling.” It’s just the football-related amount that needs to be limited.
The deal started in 2013 and was discontinued in 2020 – although some clubs are still receiving losses suffered by their fans up to two years ago.
Annie Ashton, whose husband Luke took his own life after battling a gambling addiction that began with football, wrote in The Guardian last week: “It’s almost unbelievable clubs are encouraging their own fans to play , then the same clubs cash in when they lose. The more the fans lose, the better for them. The ruin of a family is the jackpot.
The EFL says the practice was dropped when it renewed the Sky Bet deal in 2020 as it placed more emphasis on safer gambling.
However, that’s not enough for Dale Vince, green energy entrepreneur and owner of League One Forest Green Rovers, whose club works with The Big Step, a charity set up by bereaved families campaigning to end advertising on gambling in football. Forest Green Rovers refuse to take any sponsorship of the game and instead display Big Step logos on the ground.
Vince said: “Gaming already gives money to clubs to wear their brands to encourage fans to play, which means they are encouraged to lose money.” So this ploy seems pretty blatant, but I’m not sure it’s any different than taking a gaming company’s shilling and sticking their brand in front of their fans to encourage loss-making activity.
Shilton (right) who earned 125 England caps during his career, spent much of his life battling gambling addiction
“I think the game dominates football today, it normalizes the game as an activity among the fans and that’s wrong.” We can see the enormous social damage of the game, the addictions, the suicides. It’s not about calling for a ban on gambling, it’s about curbing football. If you look at Premier League coverage, it’s dominated by gambling adverts: pitchside signs, every intermission, in programmes, on shirts.
“It’s all about the game with a smart phone in the game, all these tweaks that make it more accessible and easier to lose money. Our position is not that it should be banned, but that it be contained and that we should not have jersey sponsorships.
“We believe football can live without gambling money like Formula 1 lives without tobacco money. At the time, Formula 1 thought it couldn’t live without tobacco sponsorship. They said it would kill sport, but it’s not. It’s a thriving sport. I’ve heard the sum [total of gambling’s value to the EFL] is £60 million. We could override that if we wanted to or were forced to.
Luton Town Championship side turned down gambling sponsorships
Forest Green owner Dale Vince (pictured after promotion to League One) has called on football to shed its playing habits
Championship side Luton Town have also refused gambling sponsorships and have been backed in their position by Shilton’s England team-mate Gary Lineker, who tweeted: “All clubs should do this, especially those of the Premier League, who shouldn’t be naïve youngsters in a gambling world that can lead to misery and despair. It’s pure greed.
The Premier League were close to announcing a voluntary ban on gambling adverts as the main shirt sponsor ahead of a government ban, but delays in the government’s white paper on gambling reform of money have encouraged clubs to delay, with new Prime Minister Liz Truss believing in less regulation meaning Vince says football should lead the way without being coerced.
Vince said: “This government is in favor of deregulation. Right now they want to take away 579 environmental protections that we have enshrined in law. It’s a small state ideology and Liz Truss wants to get rid of the sugar tax from the processed food industry, so I think football needs to do that.