WAYNE ROONEY should put the interests of fans before his bank balance, the Bishop of St Albans, Dr Alan Smith, has said. He was speaking after the footballer was given a squad number that tied in with his new club’s gambling sponsor.
Derby County, who play in the Championship, have signed Mr Rooney, a former captain of England and Manchester United, from DC United in the United States. He will wear the No.32 shirt when he moves in January, which is a tie-in with Derby’s sponsor 32Red.
Speaking to the Daily Mail on Friday, Dr Smith said: “I hope Wayne Rooney will hear the public outcry which chimes with the Church of England’s vote for restrictions on gambling advertising.
“He needs to start making decisions that have the interests of his fans, and not his bank balance, at their heart.”
In February, the General Synod voted overwhelmingly in favour of a motion calling on the Government to reduce the “quantity and persuasiveness” of gambling advertising (News, 1 March).
Speaking on Tuesday, the sports minister, Nigel Adams, said that he understood the criticism that Mr Rooney and Derby County had received.
He said: “The No 32 shirt is a very crafty move by Derby. I would ask them to look within themselves and think about the impact that problem gambling can have on some in society, particularly vulnerable people and youngsters. They have got a social responsibility to be mature and grown up.”
“Clubs need to be very conscious of that link with gambling,” Mr Adams said. “It did raise an eyebrow when I saw the No 32 on Wayne Rooney’s shirt.
“I would urge the clubs to abide by not just the rules but the spirit of what the Gambling Commission and the FA have laid down. And if they break those rules then they shouldn’t be surprised if there is further action. We have to make sure we look after those who are vulnerable.”
The FA will scrutinise the decision, the Daily Telegraph reported on Thursday of last week, once Mr Rooney arrives at Derby. The squad number given to him could be in contradiction of advertising rules.
Dr Smith said: “Coleen Rooney is reportedly angry with Wayne’s decision to wear a football shirt adorned front and back with gambling ads, and so am I.
“Football needs to wake-up to the fact their shirt sponsorship deals will have a negative impact on the welfare of many of their fans, particularly children.
“I was shocked recently to meet two families who no longer allow their children to watch football matches as they feel they are being primed to gamble in the future.
“It is not just the clubs that must take a stand. Players need to start using their considerable power to reject gambling’s influence on football.”
The shadow Sports minister, Labour’s Rosena Allin-Khan, said: “This relationship is now so out of control, we are seeing the names of players becoming synonymous with gambling brands. The apparent sponsorship of Wayne Rooney’s move to Derby County has taken things to a whole new level.”
Dr Smith has previously pushed for a House of Lords inquiry into gambling and betting (News, 22 March). Earlier this year, he told the General Synod that gambling advertising, unlike tobacco advertising, used to be banned, but that today, 55,000 children were so-called problem gamblers: more children gambled than drank alcohol, smoked, or took drugs.
“This generational scandal sees young people immersed in social-media and tech platforms where the gambling industry relentlessly promote their products as part of a £1.5 billion annual spend on advertising, including TV and sports advertising,” he said.