Bereaved families walk from Manchester to Liverpool to demand gambling reform

More than 60 people harmed by gambling – including families who have lost loved ones to gambling-related suicide – walked from Manchester to Liverpool via the cities’ famous football clubs to demand gambling reform on July 8 and 9.

They walked in memory of Ryan Myers from Liverpool who was 27 when he took his life in 2014 after becoming addicted to gambling.

John Myers (left) with his son, Ryan (middle).

Alison and John Myers, Ryan’s parents, were joined on the walk by several other families who have lost loved ones to gambling suicide. Last year, Public Health England estimated there are 409 gambling-related suicides each year in England alone. Walkers wore tops with 409 on the back to raise awareness of gambling suicides and remember those who have lost their lives to gambling.

“Ryan was a bubbly, happy lad. Our world fell apart when he died. I still look at pictures of him as a young child and think what a waste. What a waste of a talented, lovely boy.”  

John Myers

Among the walkers were recovering gambling addicts, affected others and parliamentarians including Barbara Keeley MP and Kim Johnson MP, together with representatives from local authorities. The group called at four Premier League clubs – Manchester City, Manchester United, Everton, and Liverpool – to demand an end to all gambling advertising in football. A minute’s silence was held at each ground in memory of all lives lost to gambling.

Everton, one of the clubs the walkers called at, recently announced a partnership with online casino Stake, which was met with overwhelming dissatisfaction by fans. A petition was set up by Everton fan Ben Melvin calling on the club to cancel the partnership. More than 30,000 have signed the petition, which was due to be handed into the club on the walk by a group of Everton supporters, but no one from the club was available to meet them.

Ryan Myers was an avid Liverpool fan and tried to stop gambling several times but found that the sheer volume of gambling advertising he saw daily made abstaining almost impossible. Aggressive gambling advertising and marketing continued to appear in Ryan’s email inbox for several years after he died.

John Myers with Kay Wadsworth, who lost her daughter Kimberly to gambling suicide in 2018.

The march happened with the publication of the government’s long-awaited Gambling Act review whitepaper expected any day, which will set out the government’s proposals for gambling reform.

John Myers said:­

“The adverts played a massive role in Ryan’s addiction – they wouldn’t let him break free and didn’t warn him about the dangers. Instead, they kept telling him gambling was fun and safe. Unless the adverts are going to show what can happen to families, the funerals, and the heartbreak, then they’ve got to go.”

James Grimes, formerly addicted to gambling and founder of The Big Step campaign, added:

“This is the government’s last chance to get the whitepaper right. Bereaved families and those of us harmed by gambling are demanding the government make changes that will save lives and prevent more people from going through what we have had to endure.

“The government must end all gambling advertising in football, not just the Premier League and not just on shirts.”

If you would like to donate to The Big Step campaign, you can do so here.