AFC Wimbledon is the fifth English league club to take a stand against gambling advertising in football and sign up to the Big Step campaign.
The League Two side join Luton, Bolton, Forest Green and Tranmere in supporting the campaign calling for an end to all gambling and betting sponsorship in football.
“If you look at gambling and the damage it can obviously do… it has touched a lot of people, probably more than we even realise,” AFC Wimbledon manager Johnnie Jackson said. “The more awareness you can raise about gambling, the better.”
The Dons, now ninth in English football’s fourth tier, have joined more than 30 other professional clubs after leaving the decision to members of the Dons Trust, the supporters group that owns the club in south-west London. Of the 1,199 members surveyed, 79% voted to join Big Step’s campaign.
“I think the fact that a lot of people voted for it shows how widespread the issues around gambling are – and how much people are affected by it, whether it’s themselves or the people around them,” added Jackson added.
AFC Wimbledon will collaborate with Gambling with life, the charity behind Big Step, founded by grieving families to raise awareness of the risks of gambling. The club is committed to spreading preventive messages and providing training and education on gambling addiction in the community.
“As a club at the heart of our community, our mission is to be a force for good,” said Michele Little, club director at AFC Wimbledon. “We made the decision some time ago not to accept gambling advertising or sponsorship as a club. Now, with the support of our owners – the fans – we join the Big Step in saying it is time to end the harm caused by gambling advertising in football.”
Professional football’s relationship with gambling advertising is under renewed scrutiny after Brentford striker Ivan Toney and Newcastle midfielder Sandro Tonali received lengthy bans for breaching betting regulations.
The Premier League will ban gambling companies from sponsoring the front of teams’ shirts from the 2026/27 season, but will continue to allow sleeve sponsorship and betting-related advertising on billboards at top-flight pitches. That of the British government White paper from April 2023 on gambling reform went no further than recommending a code of conduct to ensure “a responsible approach” to gambling sponsorship in sport.
A recent study found that up to 3,500 gambling logos were visible during a single televised Premier League game – just 7% of which were on the front of shirts. Another study found that football fans received 11,000 gambling messages during the opening weekend of the Premier League season in August.
“We are delighted to have the support of Wimbledon and its owners – the fans,” said Tom Fleming, communications manager for Big Step and Gambling with Lives. “Gambling advertising is unhealthy and unpopular, so the club’s decision is welcome good news following a sharp rise in the number of high-profile players being harmed by gambling.
“We are sure that no club would work with a gambling company if each club’s fans mattered. We still hope the Government will take control and put an end to gambling advertising in football, but in the meantime it is so important that clubs like AFC Wimbledon take a stand to protect their fans.”
Other clubs that have that have registered for the campaign These include Women’s Championship club Lewes and Scottish Women’s League champions Glasgow City, as well as Dulwich Hamlet, Drogheda United, Partick Thistle and Sligo Rovers.