David Wheeler, midfielder of Wycombe Wanderers (English third division) came out of his hinges in January, signing a stand in The Guardian. “In almost 500 appearances (in the league) I have always had an online casino advertisement, either on my shirt or around me on the pitch”, writes the player.
Football survives on betting
The sportsman’s words find a particular echo at a time when the world of professional football continues to forge links with online sports betting sites. Prompt to take care of their image, European clubs and leagues have always asked their players to be examples on and off the pitch, especially vis-à-vis young people. Nevertheless, the risks associated with addiction to sports betting seem to escape the vigilance of the latter. “In twenty-five years, football has become a sport flooded with capital without having planned the dikes that made it possible to avoid a whole host of problems”, analysis Wladimir Andreff, economist and professor emeritus in economics at the University of Paris 1 Panthéon Sorbonne.
“In the early 2000s, football entered a financial crisis”, reminds the author of the book The hidden face of sport. Successive decisions, such as the Bosman ruling (prohibiting the limit on the number of athletes of different nationalities in a professional team), or attempts to create major European leagues “led to gigantic inflation driven by UEFA. Even as the sums entering football grew, the scissor effect between increasingly high expenditure and insufficient income forced football to find other sources of funding, in particular through sponsors.. Online betting operators, which were experiencing a significant rise in power, then appeared in the football landscape.
Better supervise sponsorship
Before the summer, a working group of the National Gaming Authority (ANJ), dedicated to the sports partnerships of gambling operators, was created. The objective: to take stock of the excesses of sponsorship, jersey partnerships with clubs or even we (attribution of the name of a sponsor in the name of a stadium or competition). “We are exploring what, in our legal framework, could lead to a better framework for sponsorship as it exists and, if necessary, what would be necessary to propose to protect minors and excessive gambling enthusiasts. »indicates in this regard the direction of the ANJ.
“The ANJ has powers, particularly in granting licenses to operators, but in the name of what could it prohibit a gaming company from sponsoring a club? asks Wladimir Andreff. It would have to be proven to be harmful. »
“Could banning a logo with the image of a gaming operator on shirts not be justified in the name of protecting minors, one of the two major missions of the ANJ? » replies the latter. At this stage, the working group confers, before delivering its report, expected by the end of April.
Mbappé spearhead of the fight against addiction?
In the meantime, could the revolt come from the field? In March 2022, the star striker of the France team, Kylian Mbappé, refused to participate in an operation with the partners of the French Football Federation (FFF) to protest against the collective management of image rights at Blues. He intended to renegotiate the agreement on the rights and obligations of players signed with the FFF since 2010 and to be able to choose the sponsors he defends, in particular for ethical reasons.
“There are two categories of players: mercenaries and those for whom football matters as much as money. A player like Mbappé seems to belong to the second categorypoints Wladimir Andreff. For football to change, all future athletes should also be trained in notions of financial ethics. »