Belfast Telegraph

Lindy McDowell: Why I bet that many football clubs won’t have a rethink about sponsorship deals with gambling firms

Derby County boss Phillip Cocu welcomes Wayne Rooney to Pride Park
Derby County boss Phillip Cocu welcomes Wayne Rooney to Pride Park

By Lindy McDowell

Most Northern Ireland football fans remember September 7, 2005, as that glorious night the home team beat arrogant England 1-0 at Windsor Park.

I remember it as the night I made 700 quid off the back of Wayne Rooney.

In the run-up to the game young Wayne (as he then was) had summed up the arrogance of the visitors with his "they're not Brazil, they're Northern Ireland" attitude.

I'm not a betting person and I'm certainly not an expert in football, but when I heard that Northern Ireland were a whole 22-1 against I thought to myself: "Hmmm, good odds."

By the time I'd worked out how to place a bet, though, the odds were down to 14-1. Never mind, still good. I gambled £50, which even now sort of shocks me.

But then David Healy memorably came up with the goods and I was £700 richer.

As for Wayne, in his career he went on to do great things on the football pitch and even greater things for tabloid profits off it.

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This week he's back in the headlines again. Having spent some time with a team in America he's making the move back to Derby County, where he will be employed as both player and coach.

Apparently his wife Coleen had been unhappy in the US.

The move has delighted the fans, especially Derby management now hoping to fill the coffers from the sale of Wayne's replica shirts.

But it's the shirt itself that has sparked controversy. The number on it anyway.

Wayne will be sporting 32 on his back. One of Derby's sponsors is the betting firm 32Red.

Among those reported to be annoyed at this blatant piece of marketing for a gambling firm is Coleen, a woman who appears to spend more time being angry than Arlene Foster and Mary Lou McDonald put together.

In this case, however, with good cause. Wayne has form in the gambling arena. In one betting spree he's said to have spent half a million in a casino in under two hours.

Thanks to the betting firm's sponsorship, Derby will now be paying him close to £100,000 a week (a week!). He'd soon get through even that, though, were he to revert to his old ways.

It's not Wayne, however, that critics of the sponsorship deal are primarily concerned about.

It's the wider question of what football's wall-to-wall promotion of betting firms has upon the fans - many of them very young.

The teams and the betting giants see sponsorship as a financial win-win.

But it's not a winning combination for those for whom betting isn't a once in a while thing or a weekly bit of fun with a couple of quid on an accumulator - it's a very real and very destructive compulsion.

The promotion of tobacco is now a taboo in sport. The promotion of alcohol may be headed that way too.

Until the issue with Wayne's shirt, though, the betting giants have been getting away with promotion of their websites and their apps on an industrial scale.

Among critics of the pernicious impact of this, of sport selling its soul for a quick buck, has been a spokesman for the Church of England.

But judge not lest ye be judged... the same Church recently celebrated an £8m windfall from the National Lottery (to fix up four of its cathedrals). That's gambling too, your reverence.

That said, there is a particular point to be made about the outrageous scale of football's addiction to gambling firm link-ups.

As the new Premier League season kicks off, half the clubs will carry the logo of such a firm on their shirt.

But will those clubs gagging for sponsorship millions have a rethink anytime soon on where this money comes from and the damage that it might be causing?

Well, I'd be prepared to bet they won't.

Sizeable storm in coffee cup

A leading coffee chain is criticised for hiking prices whilst reducing cup size. The cup size will still be massive though. Coffee chains get off with charging phenomenal prices because what they're flogging isn't a 'cup' of coffee - it's a bucket of the stuff. Their shops seem to have taken over the world in the last couple of years. But at some point customers will have had their fill. Judging by the size of a 'large', sooner rather than later.

Martina dances out of line

Dancing queen of the week? That would be Sinn Fein's Martina Anderson, who bizarrely chose to do a Theresa May at a hunger strike commemoration event. Needless to say her Strictly Commemoration Dancing didn't go down well with the republican grassroots. On the unionist side, her fist-pumping and chanting of IRA slogans hasn't impressed either. Me, I just wonder if Brussels would deem any of this appropriate behaviour for an MEP.

This Hollywood drama is wee buns for public

Revenge, they say, is a cupcake best served cold. And so to Paul Hollywood, Bake Off star and master of the firm handshake saluting consistent oven temperature, who has this week been dumped by his youthful girlfriend.

Who, for the record, is half his age, photogenic and now allegedly threatening a tell-all book about their shortlived liaison.

So, who then could blame the former Mrs Hollywood, currently finessing a divorce from her ex, for feeling a little self-raised at the news?

He's her yeast-erday man?

This wasn't the first time of course that Mr Soggy Bottom had humiliated her.

Previously he had a bit of a fling with a fellow judge on the American version of Bake Off.

After that Mrs H had taken him back - although presumably after having eaten his bake off.

And then he goes and repays her by publicly betraying her for a second time.

This week, though, looking elegant and relaxed, Mrs Hollywood has been pictured shopping at her holiday resort, presumably unaware of her former husband's woes.

Or indeed the paparazzi hovering in the near vicinity...

And in England the paps have also been on hand to record Mr Hollywood's estranged young lady friend putting a brave face on it while out and about looking nightclub fabulous.

And also seemingly totally unaware of the camera clicking nearby...

Meanwhile, the hapless Hollywood himself (possibly less prepared for such intrusion into his privacy) has been snapped getting into his car, ciggie in mouth, looking as dishevelled and deflated as a badly-baked cherry Bakewell.

His ongoing problem is this - in these days of endless overbaked Brexit, we're all looking for a bit of light relief from some of the more tedious headlines of the day. A Victoria Sponge to balance the political stodge.

Poor Paul is serving it up to us on a plate.

Belfast Telegraph


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