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NHS England Urges Football Clubs to Consider Impact of Gambling Sponsorships on Fans

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In a recent statement, the head of NHS England, Amanda Pritchard, has called on football clubs to think about the impact on fans when accepting sponsorships from gambling firms.

Pritchard emphasized that these sponsorship deals send a message to children that gambling is acceptable, which can have long-lasting consequences.

The plea from NHS England comes as the organization is set to nearly double the number of gambling addiction clinics to 15 due to a significant increase in referrals. In the 2022-23 period, 1,389 patients were referred for gambling support, a substantial increase from the 775 referrals seen two years ago. This rise in demand has prompted the NHS to open seven new facilities this summer in addition to the eight already in operation.

Concerns over Gambling Addiction

Speaking on the BBC Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg show, Amanda Pritchard described severe gambling addiction as a "cruel disease" and a "life destroyer." She emphasized the need for the gambling industry and organizations like football clubs to take their responsibilities seriously, particularly regarding the influence they have on young people. Shirt sponsorship deals, for instance, expose children to messages that normalize gambling.

Pritchard also highlighted the accessibility of gambling through mobile phones, allowing individuals to bet every hour of the day. This ease of access has contributed to a significant increase in demand for NHS gambling addiction services.

These concerns are further underscored by a recent coroner's verdict that suggested a betting firm could have done more to help a gambler who tragically took his own life in 2021 due to overwhelming debts. The company in question, Betfair, stated that it had met all regulatory standards at the time but conceded that it should have done more in hindsight.

Meanwhile, a campaign group has called on the UK government to intervene after three Premier League clubs announced new shirt sponsorship deals with betting firms. The concern is that these partnerships further normalize gambling and contribute to the widespread harm caused by addiction.

The UK government has outlined plans to tackle gambling-related issues, including the introduction of a statutory levy to ensure gambling companies contribute their fair share toward treatment services. However, critics argue that more needs to be done in regard to gambling regulation and advertisements.

Support from Organizations

The announcement of additional addiction facilities has been met with support from organizations like Gambling with Lives and Clean Up Gambling, who view them as essential at a time when gambling advertising is enticing more people into harmful habits. However, opposition parties, such as the Liberal Democrats, argue that the government has been slow to act and that more lives will be affected if immediate action is not taken to protect vulnerable individuals.

The issue of gambling addiction and the influence of sponsorships from gambling firms on football clubs and fans remains a critical topic in the UK. With the expansion of NHS clinics and growing calls for stricter regulations, it is hoped that measures will be taken to mitigate the harm caused by excessive gambling and provide adequate support for those in need.

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