13 July 2022

Paul Merson says shirt sponsorship should not be a gamble for top-flight clubs

13 July 2022

Former England international Paul Merson has hit out at “lazy” Premier League clubs for signing sponsorship deals with betting companies and insists there is still a stigma attached to gambling addiction.

Merson’s own battles with gambling, alcohol and drug addiction are well-known, with the 54-year-old speaking openly about his issues in recent years.

But while alcohol sponsorship has been largely curtailed, with any such deal no longer permitted on shirts, gambling advertising continues to be rife within the sport.

Nine Premier League clubs will sport betting firm sponsorship on either the front of their shirts or on the sleeve in the upcoming season.

Leeds are just one of nine Premier League clubs to have some form of gambling sponsor on their shirt for the new season. (Danny Lawson/PA) (PA Wire)

Merson – who has announced his support of Recoverlution, a new online addiction recovery hub – believes those clubs should be doing more to keep gambling from becoming a main focus of the league.

“I think it is lazy,” the ex-Arsenal forward told the PA news agency.

“If you look at the big six, six of the biggest clubs in the world, none of them have gambling on their shirts.

“We are in the day and age where we have the best league in the world, one of the best products anywhere in the world is the Premier League.

Having it plastered onto the front of their shirts and on those shirts that adult fans buy, it doesn't send a good message. It is lazy.

“I don’t know a company that wouldn’t want to sponsor a Premier League club and I just think it is lazy, lazy work to just go out and get gambling advertising.

“Having it plastered onto the front of their shirts and on those shirts that adult fans buy, it doesn’t send a good message. It is lazy.”

Merson told PA that gambling was the “worst” addiction he has suffered from, with drugs and alcohol also having caused issues throughout his life.

But he feels other addictions have been taken more seriously, citing the lack of alcohol sponsorship in the Premier League as a prime example.

“They clamped down on alcohol sponsors but people still drink so gambling advertising needs to be calmed down now, 100 per cent,” he added.

Merson fought against addiction for much of his playing career. (PA Archive) (PA Archive)

“I think it shows the stigma is still there with gambling, people say ‘just don’t do it’.

“I’m not saying ban gambling forever, of course not. If you can have a bet, control it and enjoy it, fair play to you.

“But before the game on TV, at half-time, on the shirts, on the boards around the pitch. It is too much.

“That’s why I’m so passionate about Recoverlution, it is for 24/7 and it’s anonymous if people want to go on.

“There is a stigma still out there, one in 10 people still think it is a weakness, not an illness.”

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