Forest Green Rovers Joins ‘The Big Step’

Forest Green Rovers FC has joined national movement The Big Step to become the first professional English football club to lobby for a ban on gambling sponsorships.

The Big Step, which is part of the Gambling with Lives charity, advocates for an end to gambling sponsorship, promotion, and advertisement in football. It was created to raise awareness of the sport’s ‘growing dependence’ on the betting and gaming industry.

Gambling With Lives, which was established to help people who are bereaved as a result of gambling-related damage, uses campaigning, activities, and collaborations with football clubs to provide education and awareness programmes about problem gambling.

Securing a meaningful UK gambling reform

Founder of the Big Step, James Grimes commented: “We’re delighted to have the support of Forest Green Rovers. This is a vital moment to secure meaningful gambling reform in the UK.

“As a recovering gambling addict and massive football fan, I’m passionate about ensuring the game is part of the solution to gambling harms. Our outdated gambling laws need to change, especially with the exponential rise of online gambling.  

“Sponsorship of sporting events by tobacco companies is banned and we believe gambling should be the same. To be truly effective, shirt sponsorship, stadium promotions and other branding should not be visible during matches.”

Fighting sports advertisements

Forest Green Rovers has previously declined to accept gambling sponsorships, and will now join forces with Gambling with Lives and the Big Step to fight sports betting advertisements.

Dale Vince OBE, Chairman of Forest Green Rovers added: “It’s like gambling has taken over football.

“If you watch a game on TV you are inundated with ads – gambling logos are on almost half of Premier League shirts, and constantly flash up on pitch side boards. For me, the fun already stopped. This is an abuse of football and of football fans.”

As noted by the BBC, Mark Palios, Chairman of Forest Green Rovers’ League Two rivals Tramere Rovers, has previously voiced his support for a gambling advertisement ban, claiming that the sport’s links to the betting industry have gone “too far.”

2005 Gambling Act review

Forest Green’s support for the Big Step movement comes as the UK government begins to review the 2005 Gambling Act, putting sports betting sponsorships under increased public and political scrutiny.

While a number of Premier League clubs met in late March to negotiate the future of their respective sponsorship or partnership deals, there are about 55 separate gambling sponsorship or partnership arrangements active with 44 football clubs playing in England’s top two divisions.

The prohibition of betting sponsorships by sports clubs has been dubbed ‘the most likely outcome’ of the reform of British gambling laws, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his cabinet are said to support the proposal, despite Rick Parry, the Chairman of the English Football League (EFL), remaining opposed.