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The Big Step 5: why we’re walking

On June 4th, a group of over 30 people harmed by gambling will set off from Scotland and walk nearly 300 miles over a period of 10 days, arriving at Wembley Stadium on June 13th. But why, we hear you ask! 

Together, we are calling on all broadcasters, including ITV and talkSPORT, to suspend gambling advertising during the upcoming European Championships. You can add your name to our open letter here.

Read more: Do international tournaments have a gambling problem?

For many of us, football has been a beacon of hope throughout the pandemic, grounding us and giving us something to look forward to. Considering the events of the past year or so, we strongly believe that the Euros should not be used as a platform to sell addictive gambling products, including to children and young people. That’s why we’re walking.

To support us and join in from your local area, sign up here.

Okay, that’s the why covered, but just who would want to put themselves through such an ordeal? The stories of the Big Step walkers are as varied as the many pairs of the shoes that will, quite literally, be put through their paces during the walk. 

Stacey, who is a recovering gambling addict taking part in her first Big Step walk, explains why she is walking:

“I am walking with the Big Step because for eight years of my life I believed I was the only young woman in the world to suffer with a gambling addiction to the extent that I did, to a point where I almost lost my life. I am walking to let other young women know that they are not on their own. This addiction does not discriminate: no matter your age, gender, or ethnicity, this addiction can take hold.”

It’s not just gamblers who are harmed by gambling though. It is estimated there are up to 3.6 million affected others in the UK – those who are harmed by someone else’s gambling. Affected others can include children, spouses, other family members and close friends. The Big Step’s very own Emily is an affected other, also taking part in her first walk:

“My personal experience as an effected other was, and still is, a little vague. However, since joining the Big Step in April I’ve started to understand just a fraction of what my family member might have been through. As a family we don’t really talk about our struggles. The slogan ‘keep calm and carry on’ might as well be our family motto. Looking back, I can’t help but think that as a family we are all guilty of the extent that gambling harm took on my family member. Some saw it as a weakness rather than a mental health disorder that required the love and support of those dear to him to help him through it. We are blessed to have seen them come through this whereas other families aren’t so lucky.”   

A scenic photo opportunity on a previous Big Step walk
A scenic photo opportunity on a previous Big Step walk

“The Big Step is more than just a campaign tackling footballs relationship with gambling, it’s a community of people who all share common ground. Together they welcome everyone on board, regardless of their association with gambling, who support the ultimate goal to kick gambling out of football. Football is a massive part of my family and this country, it’s a community sport started by our ancestors and the gambling industry is destroying our beautiful game.

Seasoned Big Step veteran Martin, who’ll be joining us in his native Scotland and heading south of the border, outlines his reasons for taking part:

“Like the tobacco industry back in the day, we would like it all removed. We’re not anti-gambling, we just want the proliferation of gambling adverts and sponsorships through football removed. There is no need for it, it’s not required. The way they spend billions on it just proves how much money it generates and the damage it does. There have been over 6,000 suicides since the 2005 Gambling Act, and we hope this review takes all this into consideration. This is a mental health crisis, and we would like a public health approach. We’re not anti-gambling whatsoever, we just don’t want our children to be exploited through the normalisation of the gambling industry, especially here in Scotland.” 

Wembley Stadium – the finishing point of our June walk
Wembley Stadium – the finishing point of our June walk

Fellow Scot Darren will be taking part in his first Big Step walk, and is looking forward to putting some names to the faces of people who have helped him in his recovery: 

“A lot of these people I’ve never met before, but I’ve gotten to know them well online over the past year or two. But to meet these people face-to-face, and walk side-by-side, will be an absolute honour for me – I cannot wait to get started!”

Chris, another seasoned Big Step veteran, said: 

“This will be the third Big Step I’ve taken part in and that’s because I’m totally passionate about the message – we need to kick gambling ads out of football. Gambling is dangerous and to normalise it in front of children, in football stadiums, on the tv and on match day programmes is not right. I take my 12-year-old boy to football games, and he sees this all the time.”

“I started gambling on football because it felt ‘normal’. Within weeks of downloading my first app I was gambling on games all around the world, including casino-like in-play betting. Before long, my life became totally unmanageable. This is why I’m walking. Let’s make this safe. Let’s stop children having to go through the harm that myself and others have been through. Let’s enjoy football for what it is – a wonderful sport” 

Everybody taking part in the walk has a different story and experience of gambling-related harm, but we are all united by a common goal – to end harmful gambling advertising and sponsorship in football. 

If you’d like to support us by joining in from your local area, you can sign up here and the steps you walk will count toward our total. 

Thank you for your support.