The inspiration for this week’s story came from one I wrote last year. The issue remains as relevant now as it was back in October 2013 when I wrote it, following the Eels announcing a partnership with UNIBET.
The prevalence of gambling companies within our sport became clear to me again (yet again!!) on Friday night as I was watching Channel 9’s, Friday Night Football coverage. Before the game started, we had to cross to Sportsbet, to get live odds on the game. Really?
We can consider the prevalence of gambling in our game on two levels.
Firstly, association with the sport as a whole. The NRL is the only major Australian sporting club without an official betting sponsor. However the sport still gets 7.5 per cent of its profits through its affiliation with betting companies.
Related to this are the majority of clubs who have some sort of a sponsorship relationship with a betting agency.
In my opinion, gambling companies should absolutely be prevented from sponsoring sports clubs.
This has been a debate which has popped up at various times through the year.
Whilst a ban would meant that many clubs would lose significant revenue, I think we need to become more creative in finding alternate sources of revenue raising for our sporting teams.
I understand this is a difficult topic. Sponsorship is absolutely the most secure form of revenue a club can have. Crowds and memberships can vary depending on results and my Club, the Eels, have certainly seen fluctuations over the last few years as our performances have not been great. I am convinced we can do better though.
As a sport NRL should seek to be the example. We need to show leadership and show that we are serious about making our game the example. The NRL needs to make a decision about whether such strong links with gambling are what they want the game to be about.
Parents should not feel like they are taking their kids to a casino when they are at the football. It concerns me that children are able to identify betting agencies simply because they love rugby league.
It also troubles me that the involvement of betting agencies continues, despite an increased proliferation of betting scandals – not just in NRL, but in all sports. By continuing to allow betting agencies to sponsor our teams, we encourage their involvement with our sport. I remember being particularly troubled when CUA Stadium was renamed Centrebet Stadium, whilst at the time, a police investigation continued into the gambling scandal involving Ryan Tandy, the Canterbury Bulldogs and North Queensland Cowboys.
At one point in Australian sporting history we thought that the end of tobacco companies being able to sponsor teams would see catastrophic effects. NRL clubs were banned from receiving sponsorship revenue from tobacco companies in 1992 following the federal government passing legislation which prevented tobacco advertising in Australia. Instead of having catastrophic effects, we have seen teams find other sources of revenue and sponsorship of sport continuing to grow.
I’m waiting for my sport to take charge and take the first steps to stop the dominance of betting agencies in my sport.
Will the NRL and Clubs be brave? Time will tell.
Ladies who League