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The Big Step in Scotland – the faces behind the miles

This weekend, campaigners from The Big Step are wrapping up warm for our latest campaign walk in Scotland. 

Despite the change of scenery, our message remains the same: we’re calling for an end to all gambling advertising and sponsorship in football.    

One of the walkers, Joe, who is a recovering disordered gambler, said:

“My love for football has diminished to practically zero, thanks to the harm I endured through my gambling addiction. Still to this day, nearly 6 years into recovery, I’m not sure I would trust myself to sit there, week in week out, focussing on not relapsing whilst my beloved football team bombard me with advertising telling me to directly do the opposite, and gamble, immediately.”

“I don’t want another person to feel this way and to have lost what I have lost. Let’s help the next generation and focus again on all the good that the brilliant world of football can bring.” 

All in all, over 40 people harmed by gambling are taking part in the walk, which follows the government’s announcement that the publication of the crucial Gambling Act whitepaper is likely to be delayed until May. 

Si, who is taking part in his first Big Step walk, along with his best friend, said:

“My best mate is a gambling addict but thankfully is well on the way to recovery. We have known each other for around 14 years, 12 of which he was a gambling addict, and I didn’t know. 

“Selfishly at times I felt like a terrible friend and that I have let him down massively. Realistically, like lots of blokes, we just didn’t talk. However, in 2019 we started going for walks together and slowly he was able to open up and talk. Bit by bit he revealed the true extent of his gambling addiction and the effects it has had.” 

“It feels fitting that we are doing another walk together, where we can walk and talk with lots of people in the hope that we can help educate and spread the message to prevent people like my best friend from starting on the path to gambling addiction.”

“Like many that path started with betting on the football, which is why I feel passionately that the relationship between football and gambling advertisement needs to be addressed.”

Si, who is walking with his best friend.
Si, who is walking with his best friend.

Among our ranks are seasoned campaigners and first-time Big Steppers, people directly harmed by gambling and affected others. Joining her first Big Step is Kelly, who said:

“Gambling advertising and sponsorship, in football and elsewhere, makes people think that gambling is totally normal and safe, when the reality is very different. Gambling kills and football must stop promoting it. I know of people who have taken their own life when they couldn’t see any other way out.”

We’ll be setting off from Edinburgh on Friday morning. Over the course of the next three days, we’ll walk 60 miles and end at Hampden Park in Glasgow on Sunday. 

Will, a recovering disordered gambler, said:

“Football betting was where my gambling addiction began. As a young kid I lived and breathed football. I now feel sick when I watch matches and see the endless adverts, knowing how it impacted me and my family.” 

“I walk with The Big Step to bring back the beautiful game and to protect innocent children going through what I did.”

Will, who is hoping for similar blue skies in Scotland!
Will, who is hoping for similar blue skies in Scotland!

Andrew, who is also a recovering disordered gambler, and joining his first Big Step walk, said:

“I am a gambling addict in recovery and a strong believer in the messages and campaigns The Big Step are championing. Trying to fill my time with positive activities, getting fitter and spending time with people with similar lived experiences and shared hope for the future seems to be ideal for me right now.” 

On the walk, we’re calling at eight football clubs, including Celtic, Rangers and Hearts. We’re also meeting with eight MPs and MSPs to ask them to support our cause.

Another of the walkers, Ian, said:

“I’m doing The Big Step walk because I’m passionate about stopping gambling sponsorship and TV ads to give youngsters of today a way of enjoying football the way it should be enjoyed… not through betting because their favourite team promotes that product”

Ian outside Molineux, home of his beloved Wolves.
Ian outside Molineux, home of his beloved Wolves.

Sam, a veteran campaigner and recovering disordered gambler, said:

“I’m walking in memory of all those lost to gambling harm. I walk for the affected others left behind. The mothers, fathers, children, and siblings.” 

“I walk for change and for stricter measures to be introduced. We must stop glamourising harmful gambling products, we must protect children and the general public from future harm.”

Sam – a Big Step veteran!
Sam – a Big Step veteran!

Finally, Jack, who is joining his third Big Step walk, said:

“This will be the third Big Step walk I am taking part in. My links to this walk are through The Big Step’s founder, James Grimes. As a long-term friend, I have been through an entire range of experiences that being close with someone who has a dangerous addiction can bring. I have enabled, agonised, tried to prevent harm, lent money under false pretence, cut off ties completely, sympathised, not sympathised, shouted, cared, not cared, you get the picture, it’s been a rollercoaster.” 

“Through my professional experience, I now know that James is one of the lucky ones, to have escaped the clutches of such a lethal addiction. This is especially miraculous when his favourite sport and pastime (football) has always been flooded with glittering messages of enabling and validation. ‘It matters more when there’s money on it’ after all.” 

“The Big Step, and Gambling with lives, represent a community of people whose minds have been preyed upon by big business and who have been let down by the government regulations which are supposed to protect them. The advertising of these products belongs nowhere near our favourite sports. I recently played football on a pitch in Manchester, which was surrounded by betting adverts, as young kids played with 360-degree access to the idea that betting is glamourous.”