You are currently viewing The Big Step: the faces behind the miles

The Big Step: the faces behind the miles

This weekend, hundreds of people up and down the country will be walking for change and calling for end to harmful gambling advertising and sponsorship in football. But who are the people walking the steps and what are their stories?

Humble beginnings 

The Big Step was formed in 2019 with the aim of raising awareness of gambling harms by organising group walks to football clubs with gambling sponsors or partners. After the inaugural walk in 2019, two more followed in 2020, with more walkers joining each time. 

Due to COVID restrictions, this year’s walk will be a little different, with people joining in from different locations all over the country. 

We’re thrilled to announce over 300 people will be attempting to walk a combined distance of 1,137 miles this weekend – the same distance it would take to walk to every Premier League, Championship and Scottish Premier League that have listed an official gambling sponsor or partner. 

Destination: Old Trafford
Destination: Old Trafford

The faces behind the miles  

James Grimes, founder of The Big Step and veteran walker, will be walking to Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium and then across the city to the home of City’s bitter rivals, Old Trafford. Jeff Smith, Labour MP for Manchester and Withington, will be joining James for part of his walk. 

Scottish National Party MP Ronnie Cowan will be walking in his local area, Inverclyde: “This year I shall walk up behind my constituency, beyond all the housing and out into the wilderness, which is appropriate as the Gambling Act is in a wilderness of misplaced ideas, bad legislation and apathy.” 

Fellow Scot Chris Lee, founder of Chatter (a support network for those affected by gambling harm in Scotland), and his network will be making their way around the top Scottish teams over the weekend, including Rangers, Celtic, Hibernian and Hearts. Chris said: “Without The Big Step, there would be no chatter so we’re proud to do our bit again.”

In London, The Big Step’s Tom Fleming is planning to visit five football stadiums, starting at his native Selhurst Park, home of Crystal Palace, and then walking up to West London and calling at Fulham’s Craven Cottage, Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge, QPR’s Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium, and finally the Brentford Community Stadium.  

Sticking in the south, Chris Gilham, the co-host of the All Bets Are Off gambling recovery podcast, is planning a two-day walk for his second Big Step: “On Saturday, I’m walking from Romford to the London Stadium, West Ham United’s ground, who are sponsored by Betway. Although I’m a Liverpool supporter, my family are all West Ham fans and I have a season ticket there.”

“On Sunday I’m walking from Brentwood Town FC to Billericay Town FC, who are members of the Coalition Against Gambling Advertising, and have featured the All Bets Are Off podcast and Gambling with Lives as their match day sponsors this season. They also ran a gambling harm week on their social media.”

“So, for me, the Saturday is about dealing with the bad and the Sunday is about promoting the good.”

The Big Step rock up at Turf Moor in 2020
The Big Step rock up at Turf Moor in 2020

Ryan Pitcher, who co-hosts the All Bets Are Off podcast with Chris, is ambitiously planning to walk from Southampton’s ground, St Mary’s, to Reading’s Madejski Stadium – good luck Ryan!

Also in the south, Tony Parente will be walking from Shoreham by Sea to Brighton’s Amex Stadium, on his second Big Step. Two friends that Tony met through his recovery will be walking a similar route: “although we are not walking together, I know our steps will collectively count toward ending all gambling advertising with football.”

In the northeast, Steve Ramsey, who is also a Big Step veteran, will be starting bright and early on Saturday at St James Park, home of his beloved Newcastle United, who are sponsored by Fun888. Steve will then cross the River Tyne, to Gateshead International Stadium and continue to the Stadium of Light, home of Newcastle’s bitter rivals, Sunderland:

“Sunderland do not have a gambling sponsor so we can highlight this as a possible alternative for all clubs. Part of the stadium area contains the Beacon of Light, a community-based hub that houses the NHS Northern Gambling Service, who have provided invaluable help to those harmed by gambling and affected others.”

From Sunderland, Steve will walk back to Newcastle – a herculean effort of 26 miles, the same distance as marathon! He’s not planning to finish there though. On Sunday, Steve is planning to do a further 25 miles around Durham – hats off to you sir!

A rural photo stop during last year's walk
A rural photo stop during last year’s walk

Chris Hulse, also representing the Big Step in the northeast, will be walking around 30 miles from Middlesbrough’s Riverside Stadium on the Sunday, who are sponsored by 32Red, to Sunderland’s Stadium of the Light and the Northern Gambling Clinic:

“This is my first Big Step. On Saturday, my partner and daughter will be joining me for part of my walk. I’m walking and supporting this cause, so my daughter has less chance of going through what I did.”

In Wales, The Big Step’s Nick Phillips will be walking with Labour MP, Carolyn Harris. Nick plans to make the 11-mile walk from his home in Llanelli to Swansea, where he’ll meet Carolyn and walk to the Liberty Stadium, home of Swansea City FC, before returning to Llanelli.

The Big Step is not just about football stadiums though: further north in Wales, Jordan Lea will be climbing Snowdon not once but twice over the weekend!

These people are just a small snapshot of hundreds of walkers all over the country that are joining in and calling for an end to harmful gambling advertising and sponsorship in football.

It’s not too late to sign up if you feel inspired to get some steps in this weekend!

If you haven’t already, please sign and share our petition.

Thank you for your support.