GAA Football

GAA and GPA to continue fight for better gambling legislation

Derry GAA's sponsorship deal with Ladbrokes was a rare case of direct association between a gambling company and a GAA unit. Betting companies were banned from GAA sponsorship in 2018. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin

THE GAA and GPA say they will continue to push for better government legislation to deal with the growing issues around problem gambling.

While the UK government is currently considering a ban on sports teams displaying the logo of betting companies on their shirts, the Irish government continues to “drag its heels” on introducing new legislation around the area of online gambling.

The College of Psychiatrists of Ireland called in December for an “urgent ban” on gambling advertising in sports, saying that Covid-19 was feeding what was already “a hidden epidemic” and “a public health crisis”.

In 2018, the GAA took the admirable move of introducing a complete ban on sponsorship by gambling companies with the support of 93 per cent of delegates at Annual Congress.

The GPA subsequently put forward a motion last year that lobbied for the outlawing of gambling advertisements by broadcasters during GAA games.

That was passed on to Central Council and while the ability to implement it lies with improved government legislation, the players’ body say they will continue to fight the corner on it.

“That’s something we still will be advocating strongly, in terms of banning advertising during the broadcast of live games,” says the GPA’s Player Welfare Manager, Jennifer Rogers.

“It will be prioritised as soon as Covid-19 settles down again. We’re using every opportunity we can to impact change, but our predominant concern is looking after players and making sure the supports are there for them when they need them.”

Armagh forward Stefan Campbell became the most recent high-profile player to speak about gambling issues in an interview with Oisin McConville whose 2007 book The Gambler, which focused largely on his battle, had initiated the conversation.

An ESRI report in 2018, jointly-commissioned by the GAA and GPA, reported that as many as 80 per cent of players felt they had team-mates who were gambling on a “daily or weekly” basis.

The GPA helps inter-county players who encounter gambling problems, but former Leitrim footballer Colin Regan, the GAA’s Community and Health manager, says the statutory health services in Ireland that would attend to ordinary club members are “paltry”.

Regan believes that the government must come forward with legislative changes around gambling advertising in sport.

“I’d hope to look back in a generation’s time and see a whole culture shift within squads around gambling.

“I hope we’ll also be looking back from a legislative perspective on something similar to the change in tobacco advertising in sport, where we look back now and think ‘how could we allow that association to be so dominant and prevalent at the time?’. You hope we’ve evolved as a society,” he said.

Irish punters rank third highest in losses per capita of any country in the world, pumping €14m per day into an industry whose growth has exploded again during the pandemic.

The GAA’s approach in banning sponsorship contrasts with other major sports. In last season’s Premier League, gambling companies appeared on the front of 10 clubs’ shirts, paying a combined £69m in sponsorship.

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