NHS Exec Asks Soccer Clubs to Reconsider Betting Partnerships

Amanda Pritchard (l.), the head of the National Health Service, has said she would like to see soccer teams rethink their partnerships with gambling companies, arguing that it is increasing the number of people with gambling problems.

NHS Exec Asks Soccer Clubs to Reconsider Betting Partnerships

The head of England’s National Health Service (NHS) is imploring the country’s soccer teams to reconsider partnering with gambling companies. Amanda Pritchard, the chief executive of the NHS, said having gambling company logos on the front of soccer jerseys sends the wrong message to children.

“It would be really great to see the gambling industry, and also organizations like football clubs, really think seriously about their responsibilities here,” Pritchard told the BBC. “(Jersey ads) show that it’s kids are seeing every day now messages that say gambling is OK.”

The Premier League enacted a ban prohibiting teams from gambling companies on the front of jerseys. That ban, however, does not go into effect until after the 2025-26 season.

Since the ban was announced four teams—Chelsea, Burnley, Newcastle and Aston Villa—have secured partnerships with gambling companies. Aston signed a multi-year shirt deal with the Vietnamese company BK8. Burnley signed with W88. Newcastle United announced a multi-year arrangement with Fun88. Chelsea was in talks with Stake.com.

Just last week, Leeds United signed a deal with Unibet to be the team’s training wear sponsor. The team will become the club’s new official training wear partner from the beginning of the 2023/24 season.

Unibet branding will feature on the men’s first team and women’s team training wear, along with the men’s first team coaching staff.

Pritchard said these ads are partly to blame for the increase in problem gambling. She said that the NHS, thanks to a record number of referrals for problem gambling, forced her to nearly double the number of gambling addiction clinics to 15.

Approximately 1,389 patients were referred for gambling support in 2022-23. That is up from 775 two years ago.

Pritchard described severe gambling addiction to the BBC as a “cruel disease” and a “life destroyer”.

A big issue, according to Pritchard, is that with mobile phone apps gambling is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. She said that is leading to a “really significant increase” in demand for NHS gambling addiction services.

In a separate statement to announce the new clinics, Pritchard said children and adults were being “bombarded” with gambling advertising.

Recently, a coroner reported that Betfair could have done more to help a gambler who committed suicide after experiencing huge debt. Betfair said it had met all the regulatory standards which were in place at the time, but conceded in hindsight that it should have done more.