Hundreds of footballers will play in yellow laces this weekend to demand an end to all gambling advertising and sponsorship in football and to remember lives lost to gambling.
Lewes will join clubs from across England, Scotland and Wales to take part in the campaign, which will be visible across seven different competitions, at a time when the UK’s gambling laws are under review.
The initiative, which falls on Addiction Awareness Week, has been organised by The Big Step, a campaign to end all gambling advertising in sponsorship in football, led by people harmed by gambling and part of Gambling with Lives, a charity set up by families bereaved by gambling-related suicide.
Public Health England estimates there are more than 400 gambling-related suicides each year in England alone, accounting for around 8% of completed suicides.
The yellow laces campaign comes a week after Gambling Commission data showed a huge spike in 16-24-year-olds with gambling addiction. Several players wearing the laces this weekend have personal experience of gambling harm.
Lewis Carey, who plays for Lewes FC and is in recovery from gambling addiction will be one of the players taking part said: “I’ll be wearing yellow laces this weekend to draw attention to football’s role in facilitating gambling addiction and to demand change.
“As someone who has suffered with gambling addiction, it is so important that footballers like me do what we can to be positive examples to young people, and that must mean we aren’t forced to be billboards for gambling, nor play in stadiums that promote this product that destroyed my life.”
Director, John Peel, had this to say: “The Club is delighted to endorse this initiative by our partners at The Big Step. This is a timely reminder of the profound harm caused by the pervasiveness of gambling advertisement in football.
“Football clubs are community assets, and we have a duty of care to fans and wider society. It is imperative that clubs, leagues, and broadcasters recognise the devasting impact gambling addiction can cause to individuals, families and communities and reconsider its ties with the gambling industry”
More than 700 gambling adverts can appear during a single televised Premier League match, with a gambling advert visible up to 89% of the time on Match of the Day. Gambling adverts also appear in children’s sticker books, junior sections of matchday programmes and video games age-rated 3+.
Earlier this year, the bookmaker Betway was fined £400,000 for having clickable adverts on the junior pages of West Ham’s website, one where children could colour in a teddy bear.
James Grimes, formerly addicted to gambling and founder of The Big Step campaign, said: “Gambling is often a hidden addiction, and we wear bright yellow to highlight there is no shame and to remember all of the bright lives taken by gambling.
“This weekend is a bold reminder to the government that campaigners for gambling reform and our supportive football clubs are not going away until people can go to a match and support their heroes without being encouraged to gamble.
“Football is worshipped by millions and cannot be used as a platform to advertise addictive gambling products. We applaud and thank all the clubs taking part.”