Comment: Gordon Taylor's position as PFA chief left untenable by ignoring own advice on betting
Betting is football's oldest friend and its oldest foe, its Jekyll and Hyde
Thursday 29 August 2013
There is, stresses David Lammy, no harm in sports betting. Lammy, as so many of us did, grew up in a household where doing the pools was a Saturday custom.
Betting and sport and betting and football in particular go back a long way and for much of the journey it has been an innocent and idle relationship. It's football's oldest friend and its oldest foe, its Jekyll and Hyde.
Lammy, the MP for Tottenham and a campaigner on gambling issues, speaks of a red line, the divider between what is acceptable and unacceptable, and he is one who believes that that line is now being crossed too often.
The betting industry has never occupied such territory within the game, with sponsorship levels in particular having exploded. A decade ago there was one gambling company acting as a shirt sponsor across Europe's major five leagues. By 2011 that number had risen to 26 and it is still clambering upwards. The gambling sponsorship market rose an estimated 350 per cent in the five years up to 2011.
But it doesn't need figures to tell the average TV viewer or radio listener in the Britain of the prevalence of betting in and around the game, notably "live-odds" ads during matches. Lammy believes it has reached a level of ubiquity that demands "root and branch reform".
The numbers of Britons who bet regularly on sports other than the traditional gambling ones of horse racing and the dogs remains relatively small, eight per cent according to the latest Gambling Commission figures. The other way of looking at it is a market ripe for expansion. Lammy is one among many who worry about the impact on children and young people of the omnipresence of betting around football.
In Australia there are growing campaigns to restrict betting companies advertising during live sporting events. Industry guidelines in the UK allow betting ads to be shown pre-watershed during live events.
The gambling industry has poured plenty of money into sport, money that filters down to all levels, and some companies have helped fund education programmes for players in football, cricket and rugby; a scheme with the Professional Players' Federation was given further funding by the industry this summer.
There are a number of issues connected to gambling in football, and all sports. There is the integrity of the game – an issue the authorities, and some of the major gambling companies, are increasingly proactive on. But there is a social responsibility too, one that should weigh on all parties. Gordon Taylor knows that – he has pointed it out to his members in the past – and that is why his position is untenable.
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