Norwich City assures fans it will work with closely with gambling addiction charity after announcing LeoVegas sponsorship deal
- Credit: Jason Dawson/JASONPIX
For Norwich City, it is a sponsorship contract that will provide a significant boost to the club.
But its decision to choose online sports betting firm LeoVegas as its main sponsor has sparked debate amongst fans.
Those affected by gambling have expressed anger at the move, claiming it could lead to more people becoming addicted.
Others, meanwhile, believe it is a necessary trade-off in order to boost the club's finances.
Former gambling addict and City fan Luke Jones is one of many to voice their concern with the decision.
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And the 26-year-old, who lives in Norwich, wrote an open letter to the club speaking about the impact it could have.
He said: 'I know that your sponsors will try to portray a fun, safe environment, but their website is exactly the same as the ones which I became addicted too.
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'Please don't let our younger fans fall foul of this too. Please reconsider your sponsorship.'
Mr Jones, a former season ticket holder of seven years, said he was declared bankrupt after losing his job through online gambling.
The new sponsorship deal was announced on Monday, and will see the Swedish firm become the club's principal partner for the next three seasons.
Its logo will be emblazoned on the club's adult first-team shirts, matchday training wear, along with branding at Carrow Road.
A club spokesman said the deal was one of the largest of its kind in the Championship.
The spokesman added: 'LeoVegas and Norwich City are committed to promoting responsible gambling at all times and will be working closely with leading charity GambleAware on this throughout the course of the sponsorship.'
In an online poll posted on the EDP and Evening News websites, 61pc of the 1,600 who voted disagreed with the club's sponsorship decision.
Robin Sainty, chairman of the NCFC supporters' group, the Canaries Trust, said he could understand peoples' concerns. But he believed the decision made by the board of directors would not have been taken lightly.
'If it is a good deal for the club and we get better players, then it is a trade off,' he added. 'Knowing the make-up of the board at City, they are pretty ethically aware and they would have thought long and hard about this.'
A gambling addict's view
For many, the impact of having an online gambling firm sponsoring Norwich City will be small.
But for people like 70-year-old David Armstrong, such advertising has kept him addicted to it.
He claims to have lost more than £350,000 through gambling and now has to work three different jobs to fund his habit.
Mr Armstrong, who lives in a friend's shed in Norwich after being made homeless, said: 'It has completely destroyed my life.
'And it is disgusting that these companies are able to advertise themselves. It is like someone being able to advertise crack or heroin.
'The problem is that they make it look glamorous, and like it is a bit of fun, and part of the leisure industry. That is how people get hooked.'
Mr Armstrong said he was 'disgusted' by the club's sponsorship decision, adding that it could lead to 'victims' in the future. 'They should have properly considered this'.
What GambleAware had to say
The gambling addiction charity GambleAware said there needs to be a discussion as to the affect such sponsorship deals could have on the average consumer.
And it added that it was important for sports organisations to take an active role in helping to educate people against the risk of gambling.
Marc Etches, the charity's chief executive officer, said: 'There is certainly a need for a discussion to be had, as to what extent the commercial relationship affects the average consumer and if more needs to be done to protect them from the risks associated with gambling. We would like to see a similar level of commitment shown to the sharing of a responsible gambling message that is currently given to promotion and advertising.'
He said the charity treated 8,800 people across the UK for gambling addiction - up from 7,700 the previous year. Visit www.begambleaware.org.
Experts believe football has become 'comfortable' with gambling
Norwich City is not the first club to have a betting firm as its sponsor.
Stoke City renamed its Britannia Stadium as the bet365 Stadium at the start of the 2016/17 season, and fellow Championship club Birmingham City was sponsored by the betting company 888sport.
Industry experts believe football has become 'comfortable' with gambling.
Richard Larner, Norwich office manager for investment managers Hargreave Hale, said: 'Football is a sport where gambling is involved a lot so it is part and parcel of the game, which is why these sponsors are keen to be involved in the first place.
'When considering a sponsor the first thing a company will ask is whether what they do is legal, then how their supporters or customers will feel about it. From a practical perspective because you have gambling going on in the ground you have passed that point.
'I feel its an industry which is comfortable with gambling.'