UK Football Club Luton Town Joins Campaign to Put an End on Gambling Ads

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Staff member
May 3, 2008
Following the news earlier this month about the ban on adverts during TV streamed sports events, a move by the Remote Gambling Association, the sports clubs started endorsing the idea. Luton Town’s Chief Executive, Gary Sweet, after announcing in November that they have rejected a £500,000 worth sponsorship opportunities as a sign of protest, said that this move by the giant gambling companies like Ladbrokes, Bet365 and Paddy Power was just the first step towards the right goal.

The move in question is an initiative led by the members of the Remote Gambling Association, which expressed their will to become more engaged with responsible advertising. They said they planned to put forward a full set of measures such as a complete gambling ban on adverts during live-broadcasted sport.

Sweet’s Endorsement

Gary Sweet explained that he applauds those who were taking the first step, but warns that there is so much more that could be taken. He said he hopes that the Remote Gambling Association is considering other measures too. Even though the football gambling industry weighs £1.4 billion and approximately 60% of shirt sponsors for the Championship and the Premier league are gambling companies, Sweet said that the moral cost involved is much more important.

He pointed out that the report issued by the Gambling Commission last month, which showed 55,000 of UK's 11 and 16-year-olds were problem gamblers, is extremely alarming and must be tackled. Sweet said it is evident these are teenagers who were allowed somehow to open a gambling account, and that is no one else’s responsibility than the gambling companies’. Gambling under the age of 18 is illegal, he insisted.

Moreover, he stressed that identifying the player’s behaviour and noting when somebody clearly exhibits bad habit signs is entirely within the operator’s responsibilities. Sweet said that it is socially responsible, therefore, to join forces and start capping losses when it is clear that people are in a dark place in the UK and across the world.

This revolt and the sense for social responsibly, Sweet explains, comes from the fact that his great-great-grandfather was a Mayor of Luton during the First World War. He said that banning the gambling ads is not just football responsibility, but it is a real duty, a responsibility towards sports supporters and the community. If football players were to have gambling sponsorship on their shirts, they’d be promoting a bad, ill habit that will furthermore put vulnerable people in a dark place directly to their supporters, and Sweet says, they don’t feel comfortable doing that.

Supporting Correspondence from Followers

Ever since Luton announced their gambling sponsorship protest, the club has received a lot of support by followers from all over the UK and Sweet says that this made him begin to plan what they could actively do to help. He stated that he wishes other clubs, more clubs to join him in his outlooks, especially those in the higher tiers of the UK's sport, which have a wider influence than his own third-tier team. He explains that he knows that it is very hard for struggling clubs to turn gambling companies' sponsorship offers down and mentions one year, in particular, when Luton could have taken another £120,000 from one operator, yet even though struggling to break, they turned it down.

He said that with this boycott he doesn’t want to sell their ethics, but asks a simple question: do those clubs from the upper tiers, the Premier League in particular, where it is basically difficult not to make huge profits, actually need the sponsorship’s money?

Explaining that through Luton’s new stadium which is due to open next month, a promotion could be on the horizon. Sweet is positive that regardless of what level Luton will be playing at, their principles will be kept. He mentions that he has heard people saying that they will change their mind once they get up to the Championship, where sponsorship offers are far more lucrative and tempting, but he is confident that that won't be the case with Luton. He explains that their boycott is a principled stance, and there is no difference for them what a shirt sponsorship offer would attract Luton today or when they are in the Premier League since the most important thing would be the worth of the footballers. He said he has a lot of faith that the move they’ve been able to build will eventually bring success.
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