This week, former England captain Wayne Rooney caused controversy by signing a new deal with Derby County which involves him taking millions in pay while promoting an online casino.
The current DC United striker, who has also played for Everton and Manchester United has been accused of ‘selling his soul’ after signing an 18-month contract worth £7.8m, a club record.
One of the club’s main sponsors is 32Red, a gambling firm that was fined £2m last year for targeting a gambling addict who had spent more than £750,000 with added bonuses.
Rooney will wear the number 32 on his shirt which also carries the 32Red company logo and some have suggested the deal has only been possible thanks to the club’s sponsorship deal with the betting firm.
Matt Gaskell, clinical lead for the Northern Gambling Service warned that Rooney was causing immense harm by wearing that shirt. “I can only think Wayne Rooney is not aware of the serious harm that gambling can cause young people” he said. “He should visit us at the NHS Northern Gambling Service to learn why wearing that shirt number is harmful.”
Gambling campaigners also spoke out. Derek Webb, founder of the campaign for Fairer Gambling said: “These companies are immoral, unethical and have taken advantage of lax regulation and weak politicians.
“We need to stop young men getting addicted to gambling – they are using football to grow their wealth.”
Former England player Danny Mills, who played with Rooney said the deal “seems like a publicity stunt”.
Meanwhile Dr Dan Plumley, a senior lecturer in sports business management told the BBC: “There is a big moral issue with gambling at the minute. This is no coincidence. And it is right to be pointed out. The ethical issue, especially with the wider societal problems with gambling has led to a lot of talk about it. It is an issue that is on everyone’s agenda.”
The shadow sports minister, Rosena Allin-Kham told The Times that football’s relationship with the gambling industry was ‘out of control’.
32Red also sponsors Championship rivals Leeds United, Preston North End and Middlesbrough, along with Rangers in Scotland.