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EDITORIAL

Betting against Action is about to be taken over gambling advertising but a controversial replacement is already being lined up

Areview of the Gambling Act, begun at the end of last year, will produce some recommendations within a few months. It should lead to betting firms being banned as shirt sponsors while their pitchside advertising may be removed from stadiums; recent research suggests that gambling logos are visible for up to per cent of the time on Match of the Day’s highlights coverage.

Trevor Birch, the chief executive of the EFL, has expressed his “concern” that the government’s review will have “a significant impact on our finances”. The entire EFL itself is sponsored by Sky Bet, a deal that will run until , with the game’s various tie-ins to the betting industry said to bring in around £ million a year. There are currently clubs in the top two divisions whose shirts carry advertising by bookmakers, worth an additional £ m annually, while many more have official betting partners.

It has been suggested that the proposed shirt ban is intended to be a headline-grabber, with some of football’s other connections to betting, such as TV commercials during live matches, left untouched. If so this would amount to negligence by the government. Companies, such as Sky Bet who use Soccer Saturday presenter Jeff Stelling to promote their offers, now stress the value of “responsible” gambling with deposit limits on users’ accounts, but they should not be getting a public platform at all. There may be around half a million problem gamblers in the UK with millions more likely to have been affected by someone else’s addiction. In giving evidence to the government review, the Premier League did not accept that there is a link between their sponsorships and problem gambling. But it has been argued that young people have become especially vulnerable, with the

Sky Bet advertising on display as Peterborough take on Birmingham City

A L A M Y

popularity of data-based football games prompting bookmakers to widen the variety of bets available, many of which are promoted by TV advertising.

A broader severing of football’s links to gambling would have adverse effects in the short term. But even in an economy devastated by the pandemic, football clubs, followed in some cases by millions of people around the world, would surely not struggle to find alternative sponsors. Though one industry’s growing connections to the game should be a concern. Major clubs in Italy and Spain, where betting sponsorships have been banned, now have shirt deals with crypto currency businesses, which are free of government and bank regulation. One such company, Socios.com, are now active in UK football, selling digital tokens that are said to give fans some influence over the running of their club. These tokens can fluctuate in value, meaning that there is a risk involved in owning them. Traditional gambling should not be simply replaced by crypto currency as football’s most visible and damaging sponsor.

WSC Mentoring Scheme launched

Have you always wanted to write for WSC, or wondered what goes on behind closed doors at an independent football magazine? Do you want to learn new skills, make industry contacts and be paid to write an article that will be published in WSC?

We are excited to launch the first WSC mentoring and development scheme for aspiring and early career female journalists, not currently in full-time education, with an interest in football/ sports journalism. The scheme is free to take part in, and is open to ambitious writers, editors, sub-editors, podcasters and publishers, with a passion for football and something to say.

WSC has been running for years, and in that time we have worked with some incredible female journalists, but not enough: even in women are still chronically underrepresented across sports journalism, and due to this the public are missing out on brilliant and important stories, opinions and perspectives. We acknowledge that we can, and want to, do better. We want to help bridge the gap by offering our team’s time and expertise to mentor and support enthusiastic female journalists to gain contacts, experience, advice and a foot in the door.

Between February and April , you will take part in six twohour sessions on Zoom about different aspects of the business including pitching, writing, sub-editing and podcasting.

Following these sessions, you will be invited for three further sessions to talk through your individual questions and career plans and receive tailored advice and support. You will also be invited to pitch and write an article for WSC, and will be supported to make it publication-ready. Your article, with full professional credit, will be published in the magazine and you will be paid an article fee. If you are not interested in writing, there will be other opportunities to be paid for sub-editing or podcast support.

The mentoring scheme will provide useful contacts, a detailed understanding of the industry and improve confidence in applying for jobs or pitching articles. We hope the professional credit will also help build a portfolio, which may lead to further opportunities. The pilot scheme will be part of Women in Football’s #GetOnside campaign, a rallying cry to be on the side of change when it comes to gender equality in football.

For more information and to apply, visit wsc.co.uk/mentor

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