Ubiquitous gambling advertising is changing the nature of football fandom and trapping many young men in a cycle of debt, according to an academic.

“A new generation of sports fans view gambling as vital to their enjoyment of sport,” Dr Darragh McGee of the University of Bath told the Guardian.

That process began back in 2005 when gambling was deregulated; since then, gambling businesses have tapped into the spread of smartphones, making it ever easier to lay bets online, including offering “free” bets.

The result has been the “gamblification” of football viewing, McGee reported, with young men unable to watch games unless they have bets on them; it is not unusual for such consumers to have 25 accounts registered with online gambling firms.

His research, due to be published soon, is based on a two year study of 18-35 year old football supporters in Bristol and Derry. His findings suggest that the marketing efforts of gambling brands have been hugely effective, if not necessarily in the way they would like to claim.

“Far from being the knowledge-based, risk-free activity it is marketed as, the profound appeal of online sports gambling has had dire consequences for many young men,” McGee said.

“The study documented the unfolding stories of several young men whose everyday lives are punctuated by deepening social and financial precarity, high-interest payday loans and bank debt, mortgage defaults, family breakdown, and mental health struggles.”

McGee’s research feeds into a developing narrative about gambling addiction and the amount of betting in sport.

In September last year foreign-owned betting firms that sponsor English Premier League football clubs came under fire from the head of the National Health Service for failing in their duty to pay into a fund for treating people with gambling addiction.

Then in November, Sky said it would slash the number of gambling ads it carries during games, cutting them to just one per ad break. And December saw the largest gambling companies in the UK voluntarily agreeing to end all TV ads served during live sports broadcasts, in a move most likely to affect football.

Sourced from Guardian; additional content by WARC staff