AFC Wimbledon call for an end to gambling advertising in football

AFC Wimbledon are the latest club to back The Big Step campaign and call for an end to all gambling advertising and sponsorship in football.

The Dons, the 35th club to support the campaign, made the decision after consulting members of The Dons Trust, which owns the club.

Seventy-nine per cent of the 1,199 members who participated backed the move, and so the club join Premier League Luton Town, League One Bolton Wanderers, and fellow League Two sides Forest Green Rovers and Tranmere Rovers in standing against gambling advertising. 

AFC Wimbledon manager, Johnnie Jackson, with several Dons players. Credit AFC Wimbledon

Michele Little, club director and representing the Dons Trust as owners of AFC Wimbledon said:

“As a club at the heart of our community, we are committed to being a force for good. We took the decision some time ago not to accept gambling advertising or sponsorship as a club. Now with the backing of our owners – the fans – we’re signing up to The Big Step and saying it’s time to end the harm gambling advertising in football causes.”

The announcement comes when gambling’s relationship with football is under increasing scrutiny, following the high-profile cases of players Ivan Toney, Harry Toffolo, Sandro Tonali, and Lucas Paqueta – all are either under investigation or serving a ban for breaking gambling regulations.

“We’re sure that if it were down the fans of each club, no club would partner with a gambling company.”

Tom Fleming, Communications Manager at Gambling with Lives and The Big Step

A 2023 Office for Health Improvement and Disparities study estimated there are up to 496 suicides related to gambling every year in England alone.

Earlier this year, the Premier League announced it will phase-out front-of-shirt gambling sponsors by the 2026/27 season. But a government whitepaper on gambling reform, published in April, took no action on gambling advertising in football despite a recent study finding that up to 3,500 gambling logos were visible during a single televised Premier League game – only 7 per cent were on the front of shirts.

Another study found that fans received 11,000 gambling messages during the opening weekend of the Premier League season in August.

Last month, Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson spoke about football’s unhealthy relationship with gambling:

“We know gambling is a problem in our society, but we don’t help in sport because we promote betting.”

Tom Fleming, Communications Manager at Gambling with Lives and The Big Step, added:

“We’re thrilled to have the backing of Wimbledon and their owners – the fans. Gambling advertising is unhealthy and unpopular so the club’s decision is welcome good news following the sharp rise in high-profile players harmed by gambling. We’re sure that if it were down the fans of each club, no club would partner with a gambling company.

“Despite young fans being bombarded with relentless gambling adverts while watching their heroes, this year has shown that football is incapable of self-regulating. We still hope the government will take control and end gambling advertising in football but in the meantime, it’s so important that clubs like AFC Wimbledon have taken a stand to protect their fans.”

AFC Wimbledon will work in partnership with Gambling with Lives to promote preventative messages and information, as well as provide training and education about the risks of gambling in the community.

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