Melbourne Victory and Western United football clubs will be rivals on the field tomorrow, but off it they stand united with competitor clubs in New South Wales and South Australia against the intrusion of gambling promotions into their game.
Five of Australia’s 12 A-League men’s clubs have signed up to gambling harm prevention programs in their respective states, making a commitment to refuse sports betting sponsorship and declaring that they’re ‘in it for the game’.
Along with the Victorian clubs, Western Sydney Wanderers, Macarthur and Adelaide United are concerned that young people have never experienced sport without gambling promotions and think that it’s normal to bet on sport.
‘Melbourne Victory provides role models for the community beyond football,’ Managing Director Caroline Carnegie said. ‘The sport attracts a diverse audience, both as players and fans, and we want them to enjoy the sport in a positive way.
‘The Love the Game partnership allows us to be very clear about our stance on gambling in sport and its effects on families, including kids, who are exposed to the ads at an early age.’
Western United CEO Chris Pehlivanis agreed: ‘The behaviours accepted in professional sporting arenas are the same behaviours that come to be accepted in the community.
‘At Western United, we put our community first and we recognise our responsibility to be role models for young people. We're dedicated to educating our community and reducing the exposure to gambling so everyone in our Western United family can enjoy the game.’
Adelaide United expressed similar views to other A-league clubs with CEO Nathan Kosmina highlighting the desire to put community wellbeing ahead of sports betting partnerships.
‘We want our supporters to focus on the positive involvement that football can have on their lives and community,’ Mr Kosmina said.
‘We know that the attitudes of young people towards gambling are heavily influenced by the sporting brands they engage with. Our obligation is to foster a love of the game first and to promote the pride, passion and purpose of football in the community.’
Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation (VRGF) CEO Shane Lucas said concerns about prolific gambling advertising crossed state boundaries, sporting codes and levels.
‘These A-League teams are playing a leadership role in showing young fans that there are lots of great things about sport, none of which involve gambling,’ Mr Lucas said.
‘Importantly, they’re also reminding parents and others to share with kids what they enjoy about sport, such as the sense of camaraderie it offers, an appreciation of player talent and skills, the strategy involved, or just that it’s fun.’
In 2020, the gambling industry spent $271.3 million on advertising in Australia, excluding social media, sponsorships and in-program content, such as during live sport broadcasts.
NSW Office of Responsible Gambling Director Natalie Wright said research showed young men – those aged 18–24 years – are risk takers and that they’re particularly attracted to sports gambling, targeted by gambling operators and vulnerable to gambling harm.
‘This group is the first generation of Australians to have grown up with sports betting promotions, constantly confronted by ads via every form of media as well as direct marketing,’ she said.
‘It has never been more important to equip young people, who are betting on sport in increasing numbers, with the information and tools they need to think critically about betting.’
Manager of SA’s Office for Problem Gambling Rory Spreckley said that as the state’s fastest growing form of gambling, it was critical to challenge the normalisation of sports betting.
‘It’s important we reinforce the positive aspects of sport without gambling such as the matchday experience, atmosphere and sense of community,’ he said. ‘At the same time, we are raising awareness and educating the community about the risks attached to sports betting and ways to keep themselves safe.
‘Our current focus is on reaching young men, who are the most likely to bet on sport, as well as parents, whose behaviour has been shown to influence children’s attitudes towards gambling and intention to bet on sport.’