A recovering gambling addict is crossing Lancashire and Cumbria in a new campaign to halt all gambling advertising during coverage of Euro 2020.

James Grimes, who in 2019 called on Preston North End, Burnley FC and Blackburn Rovers to end their affiliations with betting sponsors, has launched a new campaign.

He and 30 other former gambling addicts will march from Scotland to Wembley Stadium in June as part of their campaign for broadcasters to suspend all gambling advertising during their coverage of the delayed European Championships.

The event is part of the Big Step, a popular campaign founded by people who have experienced gambling related injuries, which is part of the Gambling with Lives charity.

James Grimes, founder of The Big Step, told LancsLive: “Football has been a beacon of hope throughout the pandemic and the Euros should be a cause for celebration as the recovery continues, not a platform to promote addictive and harmful gambling products.

“The promotion of gambling, including products with addiction rates of up to 50%, is a huge contradiction to the good work that football does, which is why we believe that advertisements gambling and sponsorship should have no place in football. ”

James Grimes was a gambling addict for ten years

In June 2019, James embarked on a 200 km walk as part of his campaign to end sponsorship of football clubs by betting companies.

James walked to Turf Moor, Ewood Park and Deepdale, three clubs still supported by funds from betting companies.

The 31-year-old started playing at the age of 16 and lost around £ 100,000 in betting.

He said: “The fact that the whole Football League is sponsored by a gambling company certainly didn’t happen when I started playing.

“I remember it was described as being sociable and fun, just like football, but for problem players it’s the absolute opposite.

“Preston, Burnley and Blackburn are all sponsored by betting companies, 17 of the 24 league clubs are sponsored by betting companies and nine Premier League clubs have betting companies as jersey sponsors.”

“I want to use this walk to start a conversation, to eventually get these clubs to start evaluating if they can do more to prevent young children from becoming addicted to gambling.”

James Grimes, center in black shirt, with his friends who will undertake the charity walk
James Grimes, center in black shirt, with his friends who will undertake the charity walk

James’ own gambling problems began when he was 16, but he says the full-blown addiction didn’t kick in until he was 18.

He then took a path that saw him play daily, a habit that cost him around £ 100,000 over a decade.

“I couldn’t watch football without betting,” he said.

“It eventually became that no matter if I won or lost I had to bet on no matter what. I estimate that I have lost around £ 100,000 in ten years and have never had a good job. paid. “

James says his addiction cost him two jobs, relationships and friends, and saw him rack up 20 different payday loans.

Its latest campaign calls on broadcasters to end all betting advertisements during coverage of Euro 2020. The tournament kicks off next month.

Mr Grimes said: “I think one of the reasons my game was exacerbated was the advertising in football.

“Someday I want gambling addicts or recovering drug addicts to be able to watch a football game without the insistent advertising of the game.

“It’s everywhere it’s before after, it’s in between, it’s also announced on the pits.”

James and his teammates will depart Gretna FC in Carlisle on June 4th.

It will pass through several clubs in Lancashire and Cumbria, including Carlisle FC, Kendal Town, Lancaster City and Preston North End.

Walking just under 300 miles over 10 days, they will arrive at Wembley Stadium on June 13, ahead of England’s game against Scotland five days later.

At the start of the 2020/21 season, 85% of the Premier League and 75% of league clubs have listed a sponsor or playing partner.

As a result, a gambling brand is now visible up to 89% of the time on Match of the Day, which is watched by up to seven million people every week.

With more than 60 signatories, including leading parliamentarians and clinicians, The Big Step wrote to major broadcasters, including ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5, Sky Sports, BT Sport and TalkSPORT, asking them to suspend ads for gambling during Euros.

They also have an open letter for supporters to add their voice to the growing call for a suspension of gambling ads during the tournament.

Those marching from Scotland to England will be supported by hundreds of people across the country, who will join remotely and march in solidarity to help make this the biggest event ever.

The Big Step’s latest march comes against the backdrop of the government’s ongoing review of the 2005 Gambling Act, the outcome of which is expected later this year.

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