Amateur team Headingley adopt gambling addiction charity as shirt sponsor

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Gambling With Lives became Headingley’s new shirt sponsor after the winner of a club raffle gifted the prize to charity

Amateur side Headingley AFC believe they are about to become the first English club with a shirt sponsor warning of the dangers of gambling.

The move by the Leeds club comes at a time when nearly 60% of Premier League and Championship clubs promote betting firms on their shirts.

The shirts will feature a ‘Gambling With Lives’ logo in memory of former Headingley player Lewis Keogh, who took his own life aged 34 in 2013, having run up gambling debts of £50,000.

“We wanted to do our bit,” chairman Callum Butcher told BBC Sport.

“Playing matches around West Yorkshire, we come into contact with a lot of young men and hopefully this will help to educate them about the dangers of gambling,” said Butcher.

“We have spoken to families, who like Lewis’ family, have been devastated by gambling addiction and we wanted to help raise awareness.”

Gambling With Lives is a charity set up by the families and friends of young men who have taken their own lives as a result of gambling. The team will carry their logo on their shirts for the first time on Saturday.

Charity founders Charles and Liz Ritchie said: “This is a special deal. Every game will flag up the dangers of gambling and generate discussion among people who are targeted by gambling marketing.

“One day Headingley will be seen as pioneers of changing the place of gambling in football.”

Headingley AFC play in the West Yorkshire Premier League in the 11th tier of English football

Such was Keogh’s bond with team-mates at Headingley – who play in the West Yorkshire Premier League, the 11th tier of English football – that the club run an annual fundraiser in his honour to raise money for mental health and anti-gambling charities.

Gambling With Lives attended the event last year when the club held a raffle to find their next shirt sponsor.

“The funny thing is that they didn’t win,” says Butcher. “But one of our former players who runs a local interior design business wanted Gambling With Lives to be the sponsor so he gifted the prize to them.

“We think it might be a first, and have joked about how we are following in the footsteps of Barcelona, who used to be sponsored by Unicef.

“As a group of friends who were close to Lewis, we were shocked to discover how he suffered in silence. We always wondered whether we missed something or whether we could have done more, but you learn that you can’t.”

According to a Gambling Commission report, there are 430,000 problem gamblers in the UK, with a further two million people at risk.

More than £5.35bn was spent on online gambling last year, compared with £5.55bn spent in betting shops, casinos, arcades and bingo halls combined.

Betting firms recently confirmed plans to effectively ban television betting adverts during pre-watershed live sport after “responding to public concerns”.

Butcher welcomed the change, saying: “It was about time something was done. You can see why people are so influenced by gambling.

“I’m glad the industry has succumbed to the growing pressures and I hope more can be done, particularly to protect the younger generation.”



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