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Opinion

At £8m this is one gamble too far for Newcastle United

3 weeks ago
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Newcastle United is one of eight Premier League clubs to promote gambling on their shirts, as well as their official websites and other media.

This will appeal to the many people who enjoy betting, to those who can afford to lose and the gamblers who know when to stop.

However, according to government, a rising number of people, especially the young, are becoming ‘problem gamblers’.

Newcastle United has an £8million a year shirt deal with China based online betting company Fun88. While £8million is a lot of money and is enough to buy a fifth of Joelinton; a question is, has the club paused to think about the effects of its endorsement of gambling on supporters and people watching United’s games around the world?

An idea – and I will explain why later – is to say forget it; let’s not endorse betting, but promote something worthwhile.

In the scheme of things United doesn’t need the money, so why not do something charitable, as many wealthy businesses do; and give good causes the chance to have their names on Newcastle United’s shirts, for free? This is not as radical as it might appear at first glance.

Wouldn’t it be good if, say, four good causes were chosen by fans every year? Naturally, this is an idea for the next owners; Mike Ashley would probably think that giving free advertising is crazy?

However, with new owners, this idea could help impress that Newcastle United is becoming a different and responsible club.

As mentioned, £8million is a lot of money, so why abandon betting sponsorship? If an analysis was done, it would find that the cost to the North East alone for United’s endorsement of gambling is unacceptable. This is especially in terms of individual, family and the social effects which emanate in the main from the 90% of gamblers who lose.

In the meantime, we do know from the 2020 government commissioned report ‘Gambling Harm, Time for Action’, that at least a third of a million people in the UK are problem gamblers. Moreover, for each problem gambler, six other people, a total of two million, are harmed by the break up of families, crime, illness, loss of employment, loss of homes; and ultimately in some cases, loss of life. The strain on social services is immense.

Sadly, on average, one UK gambler commits suicide every day. Personally, I am already convinced that £8million is not worth the human cost.

The government report explains that the young are most at risk and that in the UK to date 55,000 problem gamblers are aged between 11 and 16, even though they are legally not old enough to place bets. The report goes on to say that for girls aged between 11 and 16 the rate of problem gambling is twice that of any other female age group; and for boys the rate is three times the rate for adults.

With these facts in mind, nothing could persuade me to buy a Fun88 replica shirt; but if a Newcastle United shirt gave added visibility to causes such as ‘Alder Hey’, ‘Macmillan Cancer Support’, ‘Red Cross’ and one of the North East’s many charities, I would buy one or all four.

If the new owners of United really wanted to make a statement, they could let every player choose a charity for their own shirt. It’s easy to imagine the entire front line wanting to have ‘The Alan Shearer Foundation’ across their chest. They know it to be a worthwhile Newcastle charity which provides respite for people with disabilities, plus it needs £250,000 every year to carry out its important work. The chances are players would also hope that a bit of Shearer magic might just rub off.

Finally, I am not a betting man; but if the new owners of United broke the grip of gambling endorsement, I bet the other seven clubs: Burnley, Crystal Palace, Watford, Leeds, Southampton, West Ham and Wolves would follow.

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