Yet more controversy surrounding gambling and the football world has come up. This time it is Norwich City Football Club has come under fire after it sent fans an email promoting gambling. The club, which currently plays in The Championship league, received criticism from campaigners.
One of those headlining the backlash was James Grimes of The Big Step. He said that his campaign group received alerts about the email from a recovering addict. That person is also a fan of the Norwich team yet Grimes said it is a disappointing route for the football club to take. There is a lot more to it than only this, not long ago Norwich announced it was moving away from using gambling sponsorship.
In 2021, the club cancelled its £5 million sponsorship deal with the Asian betting firm BK8. Fans had complained about explicit images used by the betting brand. Simulated sex acts and links to porn were also highlighted by disgusted Norwich fans. The club, which was a part of the Premier League at the time, admitted getting things wrong.
With this latest move, it’s almost like the club has forgotten its awkward past with gambling. There is little doubt that they didn’t think some of the club’s fans could have had gambling issues in the past.
The Offending Email Offered Betting Bonuses
It’s not uncommon for online casinos and betting sites to provide players with a bonus. In fact, this is how a lot of the platforms draw customers in but these aren’t something that football clubs usually distribute or promote. Here Norwich City could have broken that barrier.
Within the offending emails, fans had an invite to sign up for an account with the Spreadex site. It expressed that if they registered and placed a minimum bet, they would receive a bonus.
There is currently a state of uneasiness in the world of gambling and football. That’s because of the massive sponsorship deals that the two industries tend to have. Gambling companies enter into deals with these top clubs to have their logos on clubs’ shirts. Three Premier League clubs agreed on new shirt deals with betting operators. Those deals ended up completed by August of 2022, and will run throughout the 2022-23 season.
Meanwhile, campaign groups like The Big Step have been working to put an end to certain setups. One of those is to shut down all gambling sponsorship in football. Another is to stop gambling advertising within stadiums as well but the latest move from Norwich negates a lot of the effort put forward.
One of the campaigners for The Big Step is Mr Grimes from Downham Market. Last year, he gave great praise to the Norwich club for making big changes. That came about after the team dropped their gambling sponsorship but he was quick to label the email as both “disappointing” and “inexcusable”.
Mr Grimes relayed the information that the email came to the campaign group from a recovering addict. He commented on the club “sending encouragement to gamble” to people who have had their lives “destroyed” by it. “That’s not what a football club, a good, family, community football club, like Norwich, should be doing”, he said.
He finished by highlighting that this is another reason why the campaigns are in place.
Club Director Vowed “Never Again” to Have Betting Sponsor
In July of 2022, the football club’s commercial director, Sam Jeffrey, made a bold statement. He said that the club would “never again” enter into shirt sponsorship deals with betting brands. At the time, he also said that the club must “self-regulate” when it comes to such deals.
Norwich instead entered into a one-year deal with Norfolk-based car manufacturer Lotus Cars. That would last them through to the end of the 2021-22 season. The team’s kit, featuring the local manufacturer’s logo, launched in June of that year. After that deal came to an end, the Canaries opted to renew the deal with Lotus Cars, adhering to its promise.
It’s clear to see that the club has stayed away from betting company deals for its team kit but that doesn’t excuse it from issuing emails to fans promoting Spreadex. Jeffrey was stringent in his desire to rule out future betting deals in 2022. He noted how there were various betting sponsorship deals available. Those opportunities came with higher partnership fees, as would be the case. Yet, he noted that it was a time to self-regulate the front of their shirts when it came to betting.
Doubtless, those words will seem a little bit like hollow laughter after the club email. It’s especially a concern, considering the UK gambling industry is still in a state of flux. The review of the 2005 Gambling Act seems to have disappeared.
A white paper on it should have come to light months ago. Campaigners have been urging the government to introduce tougher laws on gambling. Sponsorship of football clubs by betting brands was one of the main focuses for them. Many believed this would actually be a part of the white paper, too.
With the white paper not yet published, it may still find itself included there. Unfortunately, it has gone through a series of delays since 2020.
It’s one thing to resist entering deals for sponsorship with betting companies. Yet it’s quite another to rid your football club of any association with gambling at all. The email sent out by Norwich City could have been a simple mistake. The club have yet to comment on the situation.
Choice Of Brand Not Ideal
The other problem with NCFC’s mistake is they were not just promoting a betting brand. SpreadEx is also used as a financial trading platform, indeed this is how it began and has only added fixed-odds sports betting in recent years.
Financial trading can be very risky to those that do know fully understand what they are doing. There is a chance you can lose more than you deposited, for example, unlike with sports betting.
Sending out these types of products to fans, some of whom may struggle with gambling addiction, is very short sighted indeed.