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‘We have changed the enjoyment of sport’ - bishop calls for betting adverts to be banned from football

PUBLISHED: 15:58 02 February 2019 | UPDATED: 16:05 02 February 2019

Norwich City have been sponsored by LeoVegas since 2017.

Norwich City have been sponsored by LeoVegas since 2017.

Paul Chesterton

A bishop is calling for stricter controls on betting adverts amid fears children are being “groomed” into gambling - with sponsorship deals such as Norwich City’s in the firing line.

The Church of England General Synod will debate a motion later this month calling for the Government to rein in the spread of gambling advertising to protect children.

Nine of the 20 Premier League teams and 17 of 24 Championship teams have a gambling company as their main sponsor.

That includes the Canaries, whose shirts are emblazoned with the logo of Sweden-based company, LeoVegas.

The motion was brought by the Bishop of St Albans Alan Smith who said legislation was needed to combat the quantity of gambling adverts.

But Dr Smith said action was also needed to stop football players having gambling logos on their strips and betting adverts on pitch-side hoarding.

When asked if he would like to see a ban on gambling adverts on football shirts, Dr Smith said: “I think that would be a really good idea.

“My personal view is we need to get far, far more radical. You simply cannot live in this country without being confronted endlessly.

“I know families who will not let their children watch football matches on TV because they feel their children are being groomed into gambling.”

Dr Smith told reporters about a young boy who had branded the football shirt his parents gave him for Christmas not a “proper one” because it did not have betting logo on it.

Dr Smith added: “That was a real wake up call for me.

“A whole generation of young people have taken on a range of views and attitudes about the norm of gambling.

“We have changed the enjoyment of sport from sport in itself to something that’s to do with money and betting.

“Our worry is we are as a nation sleepwalking into something by normalising and socialising a whole generation of people with no idea where it might go.”

A Gambling Commission audit from last year revealed the number of problem gamblers aged 11 to 16 rose to 55,000 over two years.

The General Synod debate will also consider a call for a mandatory levy on gambling firms to fund research, education, and treatment programmes for addicts.

Dr Smith is urging the Government to review the levels of gambling adverts children are subjected to and draw up new legislation focused on to reducing it.

But he also called on the gambling industry and FA to do more to limit the damage of gambling adverts to young people.

Dr Smith added: “We need research data, we need proper treatment. The gambling industry should contribute towards that.

“The best thing would be for the gambling industry to self-regulate.

“The FA and others need to wake up very quickly to how damaging this is going to be.”

The General Synod is the national assembly of the Church of England which has 478 voting members across three houses - the bishops, clergy and laity.

It will meet at Church House in Westminster, from February 20-23.

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