The head of the NHS has blamed Premier League football teams for “fuelling” gambling addictions.
Speaking to NHS leaders at a Manchester conference this week, Simon Stevens, the Chief Executive of the NHS, urged football teams to pressure their sponsors into funding addiction clinics.
During the conference, Stevens revealed he was “deeply concerned” about the lack of action to tackle gambling addictions, which he described as one of the “new threats” to health.
Betting companies who profit from the UK’s gambling industry have been encouraged to donate money to GambleAware, a gambling addiction charity, with a set target of £10 million a year. However, several foreign gambling companies sponsoring Premier League football teams have donated nothing this year.
Addressing the problem, Stevens said: “There is an increasing link between problem gambling and stress, depression and other mental health problems.
— NHS England Media (@NHSEnglandMedia) September 5, 2018
“Doctors report that two-thirds of problem gamblers get worse without help and the NHS does offer specialist treatment. But reports that foreign gambling companies are failing to play their part in co-funding help for addicts are deeply concerning.”
He continued: “Taxpayers and the NHS should not be left to pick up the pieces – the health of the nation is everyone’s responsibility. The NHS will now work with the Premier League on how we persuade these foreign gambling companies to do the right thing.”
A spokesperson for GambleAware praised Stevens words, saying: “With nearly half the clubs in the Premier League, and over two-thirds of the Championship League sponsored by gambling companies, we are seriously concerned the relationship between sport and gambling has reached a tipping point.”
They added: “There is a real risk gambling advertising and sponsorships are normalising gambling behaviour.”
According to GambleAware, only 2% of the UK’s 430,000 gambling addicts actually seek help and the charity wants “all clubs, leagues and broadcasters who profit from gambling [to] work with us to help fund treatment for this hidden addiction”.
If you believe you or someone you know may be struggling with a gambling addiction, visit our support page for advice and helplines.