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The problems and solutions to sports betting in soccer: a real-world example

As part of the SIGA integrity week, AS USA take a look at the issue of sports gambling, a phenomenon that, as one betting executive says, is “ingrained” into society.

As part of the SIGA integrity week, AS USA take a look at the issue of sports gambling, a phenomenon that, as one betting executive says, is “ingrained” into society.

Sports betting and gambling is going through a period of change in the UK and beyond. As football continues to grow across the world, many betting firms are jumping aboard and tying their colours to the mast, finding effortless promotion of their companies in an environment that actively and passively promotes gambling for both fans and players on a global scale.

AS USA spoke to Billy Lumsden, a Marketing Executive for betting company SkyBet, based in the UK. Lumsden was a former gambling addict and has now been clean for a number of months. He has a unique insight into both the dangers of gambling as well as how one can come through the process of addiction and move away from the problem.

“It’s so ingrained into daily life”, begins Billy, who started gambling at 16-years-old, “you can’t go 5 or 10 metres without seeing an advert, which says it all”. The social pressure in the UK, where betting and sports are inextricably intertwined, is huge: “if someone talked about a bet, you wanted to put it on for fear of not missing out.”

Going to football matches in England is a hugely social event, where millions of young adults - mostly men - gather together to carry on a routine that may have been passed down for generations. “It’s almost a nice social [experience], which is why a lot of people still do it now. I know a lot of people who do it throughout the year, for a lot of the time, it is the social element.”

It is not only fans who have fallen victim to the ubiquitous nature of gambling in football. Ivan Toney and Lucas Paquetá are just two of many high-profile cases in which professional footballers have been caught placing bets on the game. Toney, who “started gambling at 15-years-old” and was recently found guilty of over 200 betting breaches, something not permitted for footballers, plays for Brentford in the Premier League.

The club, who are seen as a humble, family side in a world of emotionless, ruthless, business-like teams, released their new shirt with the sponsor Hollywood Bets just months after he was charged. Prior to this, the club had released a statement saying they “will do everything possible to support Ivan”. The hypocrisy shown here highlights the need for money as well as the opportunism of the betting company to know and take advantage of a perfect situation as betting and football have sat hand in hand for decades.

Betting sponsors are commonplace on Premier League kits.
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Betting sponsors are commonplace on Premier League kits.Gareth Copley / POOLEFE

At present, almost 50% of Premier League teams have a gambling sponsor on the front of their shirts, many of them East Asian betting firms which cannot be accessed from the UK. However, given the global audience of the Premier League and the huge fees the companies are willing to pay to get their name paraded round by the world’s best players every week, as well as various promotional videos and photos, the companies can see the benefits of having 11 world stars as walking adverts for their site.

As for Lumsden’s inspiring recovery process, he spoke to a therapist provided by work, Liz Carter MBE, saying that it was “a clear path from them on.” He told AS that fans are called by the betting companies if their activity patterns appear to become potentially problematic for their economic situation or health, or if they take a drastic turn for the worse, with specific departments of betting firms in charge of monitoring and caring for their players.

Regarding the nature of the relationship between football and gambling, things look set to change: the Premier League is set to introduce a league-wide ban on gambling sponsors on their shirts, something Lumsden calls “the million dollar question” as to whether it will work or not: “they’re building to a level where it’s not completely in your face when you’re watching the game”. He labels the move “a good step for the future” and adds that “there are an awful lot of companies who do the right thing and who are taking the necessary measures”.

The links between gambling and football will perhaps never go away, with clubs as desperate as ever to make money to thrust onto the raging fire that keeps the league burning and the wheels in motion. But measures can - and are, to some extent - being taken. As well as this, help is there for those who need it, and there is always a light at the end of the tunnel, of which Billy is a fantastic example.

SIGA Sport Integrity Week

On Wednesday 6 September, AS USA hosted a session of SIGA’s Sport Integrity Week, the the global thought-leadership event held from 2 to 9 September 2023, which aims to to unite the global sporting industry, share best practice and find solutions to current and future challenges to enhance sports’ governance, protect sport’s integrity and ensure sport’s long-term, sustainable development.