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Football may be coming home. Sadly, so are gambling adverts

Football may be coming home, but so are gambling adverts – into the homes of millions of families. Wednesday’s semi-final was watched by 27.6 million people at its peak – the largest audience for a single football match in the UK’s history. Before the game, we wrote to ITV asking them not to broadcast a single gambling advert during their coverage.

Words by James Grimes, Founder of The Big Step

For millions of us harmed by gambling, our enjoyment of the England vs Denmark Euro 2020 semi-final was tainted by seeing numerous gambling adverts throughout ITV’s coverage of the game. 

To broadcast two gambling adverts from the same company (Paddy Power and Betfair – part of the Flutter Group), 10 minutes before kick-off, both including free bets and bonuses, is deeply irresponsible and risks the health of our country’s children and those of us doing everything in our power not to relapse.

Following this pre-match blizzard of ads, the same Paddy Power advert was repeated IMMEDIATELY after the full-time whistle, when somewhere between 20 and 30 million people would have been engrossed and engaged. This highlights the redundancy of the ‘whistle-to-whistle ban’ as extra-time is a dangerous loophole.

One day, gambling advertising won’t be permitted, and the incessant defence of the industry will not age well for broadcasters, football clubs, and others who benefit from advertising revenues. A growing number of politicians, the public, and many others are now joining the dots and seeing the harm this bombardment is causing, which tragically includes suicide.

With that in mind, I would like to flag this story, covering the tragic death of Luke Ashton, who took his life in April following the incentivisation of his gambling disorder by the same companies ITV advertised in front of the whole nation on Wednesday. Luke leaves behind a family, including two children and his wife Annie, who posted on Twitter after the semi-final:

“I just wish Luke was here to see it all. He literally loved football. Not as fun for my boy to sit beside his mum to watch it.”

I hope these words are amplified throughout ITV today. Broadcasters who encourage gambling and take revenues are complicit in the devastating harm caused to families like this.

I can only repeat something I’ve said before: we really hope ITV thinks of its audience, especially younger viewers, and stops promoting addictive gambling products in front of them.

Sign our petition to kick gambling adverts out of football here.

Sign Annie’s petition to end free bets here.