Scottish Conservative politician Ruth Davidson plays football and is a lifelong Dunfermline Athletic fan. So she has plenty of great insights to give in the Channel 4 documentary Football’s Gambling Addiction which is both eye-opening and a tough watch in parts.
‘I grew up in a football house,' says Ruth who's stepped away from the political fray in recent years since having her son Finn though remains a Conservative MSP. ‘My dad was a professional player for Partick Thistle, so football has always been there. But as a fan and as a mum I’m worried about the game I love. Betting seems to go hand in hand with football now. You can bet on everything from how many yellow cards players are going to get to which players are likely to score.’
With 1.7 million men aged 16 to 34 gambling regularly on football, Ruth Davidson investigates the affect it has on the fans, the clubs and the players. Here’s what happens in Channel 4's Dispatches special Football’s Gambling Addiction...
Ruth Davidson on Football’s Gambling Addiction — the troubling cases…
Among the cases Ruth Davidson looks at is one that sadly turned tragic. Fran’s boyfriend Chris was 25 when he took his own life in 2017 after a losing £120,000 in savings in just five days in an online gambling binge. His addiction to online betting began three years earlier, during the 2014 World Cup. But despite trying to stop many times, gambling companies hounded him with free bets and VIP tickets to matches. As well as Chris’s family, Ruth meets former gambling addict James Grimes, who now campaigns against football clubs’ betting tie-ups, and wants a ban on gambling companies sponsoring kits.
Ruth Davidson on Football’s Gambling Addiction — who else she meets
Ruth Davidson talks to Tranmere Rovers chairman Mark Palios, who has found ways for his club to earn a revenue away from gambling sponsorship, former Spurs player Steven Caulker, who was also addicted to football betting, and John Whittingdale, the MP in charge of an upcoming review of the 2005 Gambling Act. But with the treasury earning an estimated £4.3 billion a year in gambling tax revenue, will anything change?
‘What worries me the most is that the clubs themselves say they can’t do without the gambling money. It’s like a parasite that’s taking over the host,’ says Ruth Davidson. ‘The clubs, the betting companies and the government are all benefiting from the current arrangement. But football is more than a business, it’s part of our lives, and we need to be able to enjoy the sport safely without gambling being integral to the game.’
Start date for Ruth Davidson's documentary Football’s Gambling Addiction
Football’s Gambling Addiction, a Dispatches special on Channel 4, starts on Monday June 7 at 7.30pm. It will then become available on the streaming service All4.
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