Owls face The Dons

15/10/2021 - League One

By Jude Hall, Sheffield Wednesday writer

Sheffield Wednesday travel down South to Plough Lane for the first time this weekend as they face AFC Wimbledon in League One.

Darren Moore will be hoping his side can start to climb the table following a scrappy 1-0 win over Bolton Wanderers last time out, courtesy of a second half Lee Gregory strike.

Backed by a customary sellout away end, the Yorkshire club lineup against 15th place Wimbledon who have just one point from their last four league fixtures.

However, overall it’s been a steady start to the season for Saturday’s hosts with Mark Robinson’s side sitting on 13 points from their opening 11 games including three wins, four draws and four defeats. The London club most recently snatched a point from visitors Burton Albion thanks to a 90th minute Luke McCormick equaliser rescuing his side from what would have been four straight losses.

After the departure of last season’s top scorer Joe Pigott on a free to Ipswich it’s two academy graduates who’ve picked up the goal scoring baton for the Dons this term. Defender Will Nightingale and young midfielder Jack Rudoni both top the goals tally with three each so far.

Darren Moore comes into this clash with a few injury concerns, having ruled out quartet Lewis Gibson, Massimo Luongo, Sam Hutchinson and George Byers ahead of this one. The Wednesday boss also faces another selection headache in the goalkeeping department with Joe Wildsmith keeping a clean sheet whilst the recently unconvincing Bailey Peacock-Farrell joined up with Northern Ireland for international duty.

The Owls head to the capital as favourites with 15 points rewarded for correctly predicting a Wednesday win. However, if you fancy Wimbledon to end their poor string of results on Saturday it’ll earn you 20 points. Have your say now on the ‘play’ section.

Sutton looking to make it four on the spin in the league

15/10/2021 - League Two

By Finley Chung, Sutton United writer

The latest new pin on the EFL map for Sutton United is Crawley and The People’s Pension Stadium. John Yems’ Crawley Town welcome Sutton for a top half clash, with the visitors heading into this game occupying the final playoff spot, and Crawley sitting in 9th, two places behind Sutton only by the virtue of goal difference.

Sutton have been in belting form of late, winning four of their last five in all competitions, with Tuesday nights 2-0 win away at Portsmouth in the Papa John’s Trophy putting them within touching distance of the knockout rounds of the competition. In the league, the form has been excellent, a thrilling 4-3 win over Port Vale last time out is the latest in a run of just one league defeat in their last six games.

Crawley head into this one in similar form, again losing only once in their last six encounters in the League. They beat Rochdale last time out in the League, with Kwesi Appiah securing the points for The Reds, with no midweek action, Yems will have rested, but trained his players hard, in preparation for this game, knowing a win can take them above their visitors and into the playoff spots. Appiah will be one to watch for Sutton, bagging four goals in all competitions so far for Crawley, with two in his last two league outings.

In terms of Footrace points for this fixture, backing a Sutton United win will earn you 15 points. If you think the points will be shared, this will get you 21 points, with 20 points on offer if you think the points will stay in West Sussex, with Crawley Town.

Blues hoping to avoid being stung by Bees

15/10/2021 - Premier League

By Louis Pantziarka, Chelsea writer

This Saturday afternoon Chelsea will make the short trip to Brentford for the first top flight game between the West London rivals since 1947.

Chelsea didn’t have the best time in the few weeks before the international break, putting in some unusually tepid performances and falling to their first defeats of the season. They did manage a much-needed victory over Southampton just before jetting off to their international camps, but Thomas Tuchel will be hoping to hit the ground running this time around.

The Chelsea boss will know that this won’t be an easy game though – Brentford are flying and pose a real threat. The Bees have made an excellent start to their Premier League campaign, bagging 12 points from their first seven games and will be confident they can secure a positive result on Saturday.

They’ve channelled the raucous support from their own fans at the Brentford Community Stadium, counting an impressive win against Arsenal and a well-fought draw against Liverpool among the highlights. Chelsea know this won’t be an easy game.

They’ll need to kill the game initially and give nothing away for the home crowd to get behind. Brentford will no doubt press the Chelsea back line, so whoever is selected in defence will need to stay cool under intense pressure. This’ll be the kind of game that an early goal could have a massive impact on.

Romelu Lukaku will be the man the away side look for to grab that goal and, having been released from Belgium’s international camp early, he’ll be nice and fresh for this one. If Tuchel’s team can create a few more chances for him than they’ve been able to recently, then this tricky looking game could end up being fairly comfortable.

Footrace are pretty clearly backing Chelsea for the win here, offering just five points for an away win. Backing Brentford is risky, but not crazy with 50 points available for a home win and a very reasonable 34 for draw.

The inside track on the gambling industry: Footrace meets Matt Zarb-Cousin Pt.2

11/10/2021 - General

By Lewis Robinson and Sam Ketch

Coalition Against Gambling Ads (CAGA) and other anti-gambling advertising groups’ message is clear, but is there support for things to remain as they are?

“It's a really interesting question, I mean the betting and gaming council were kind of this vanguard. They often seem and sound very isolated in the debate, which is good, which shows that there's kind of consensus building for what we want.

“The interesting thing is the brands, the big companies, which actually fund the betting and gaming council, so Flutter, Entain, 365 [and others], they don't want to get into public arguments or public rows. They don't want to. If you notice, like, all of the announcements that you're seeing from operators, like Kindred saying we want to have 0% of our profits from gambling now, whatever you think of that, you know – that's them trying to appear constructive.

“You've got Flutter saying we’re going to cap losses for under 25s at £500 a month, so all of the things they're saying, they're not creating any antagonisms, they are almost accepting our framing, they were saying like ‘this stuff is harmful, here's what we'll do about it’. Obviously, it doesn't go far enough, but like they were accepting our framing that it's just the BGC (Betting and Gaming Council) and you've identified this correctly, that are being really kind of aggressive.

“I think the reason for that is Flutter, and I mean, particularly Flutter, which has bought FanDuel. They want to get a foothold in the US and the US regulators and the US states. They've got it licensed in every state. If they see that they, Flutter, have been causing trouble in the UK, which is the biggest regulating market in the world still, then it will make them apprehensive about licensing them in their state.

“So, I don't think they're going to want to have a fight about it. There's also the other thing as well, which is they are the established brands and they have arguably the less the least to lose from advertising prohibition because they're already the established brands.

“To think about Flutter’s brands Paddy Power, Betfair, Sky Bet, you know, all of these are like, I mean, Paddy Power, in particularly it's a high street brand, they've got the kind of brand awareness there through the shops and stuff. So, there is an argument that they have the least to lose.

“But I still think that like, you know, I mean, just an example, like Flutter. New York state, they're only offering a very limited number of online gambling licenses. So, what they've done is, which is quite clever, that they created this race to the top, where all the operators are kind of jostling to try to get licensed.

“They're sort of saying, we'll do this, we'll do this, we'll do this. A lot of them, a lot of the states, are only legalizing sports betting. They're not legalizing casino. They're [gambling companies] happy to operate just with sports betting.

“A great example, Flutter in New York they've offered 50% tax, right? Now, when they put the online gambling, remote gaming, duty up from 15% to 21% they were going mad about it. They were saying ‘this is a really unfair tax hike’ and stuff, but [they] just offered, in the US, 50% tax. So, you know, there's plenty of scope.

“The reason I was going on about this is because I think that they're not going to want to pick a fight. I think the operators will be surprisingly quiet during the review because they're worried about the US.”

But how much money is acceptable to lose whilst gambling? Increased regulation regarding this point is something Matt would like to see.

“The first thing is establishing a principle that these things need to need to happen. And that principle is already there in the regulations, they're supposed to do this stuff. The problem is there's no oversight.

“There's not adequate oversight until someone has lost a s***load of money and stolen to fund it or they've taken their own lives or something.

“And then at that point they realize, oh, this hasn't been done properly, so it's the real time oversight. That's the first thing.

“Secondly, it's the threshold. So, at what point do you have to do the check? At what point is there a way of assimilating someone's gambling across different accounts, so you can see how much they've lost across all of those accounts?

“So, there's the single customer view element, so threshold, principal threshold, single customer view, and then once you're into that affordability check.

“The question is like, what, what proportion of someone's income is an affordable level of losses?

“I think that's an absolutely legitimate debate to have, sadly, the industry's not been willing to have that debate. They want to have the debate on the threshold. They want to say that ‘a hundred pounds is too low; we'll do 500 pounds as a flat cap for under 25s’ that Flutter have just come forward with.

“They don't want to have a debate on proportion of income, and I think that's a more interesting debate and we haven't really got to that point in the discourse.

“Really what we want to do is establish that an ombudsman should have oversight of that data. First of all, customer data should not, should only be used for the purposes of reducing gambling harm.

“Secondly, the ombudsman needs to have when we create it which is, hopefully what will come out of the gambling review needs to have oversight of that data and then determine, whether it's through some kind of algorithm or like some kind of formula that can be applied uniformly across operators, what is an affordable level of losses based on whatever; whether it's disposable income, or whether it's someone's salary, or whatever.

“These things happen in other sectors, if you're trying to get a mortgage, the mortgage provider will see if your payments are going to be affordable. If you're trying to get a loan for a car, they'll see if your payments can be affordable.

“So, there are formulas and there are precedents in other sectors where there's this, you know, does work and it has to operate.

“I think with gambling it's almost even more reason to do it because you're not getting anything back. So, I think the argument's actually even more compelling. That's definitely a part of the debate that hasn't been kind of hasn't been really fleshed out.

“At the moment between 60 and 80% of the profits online gambling for online gambling are coming from the 5% of people that are either addicted or at risk. So, people that are losing more than they can afford, even if you are classed as at risk. According to the PTSI scale, you're still experiencing harm losing what you can afford.

“So, the utopia would be reducing that figure substantially, how far we can push it?

“It's an interesting question. I think with proper regulation and returning to a principle of unstimulated demand where you don't try to encourage people to gamble or induce people to gamble more than they would have through bonuses and offers and all that kind of stuff, I think you can get it down significantly. Hopefully you can reduce gambling related harm. You can reduce that 5% figure, but you can certainly reduce the amount of the proportion of revenue that's derived from them. I think to the two sides of the same point. So if you can do that, reduce the proportion of profits from harm and reduce the overall constitute harm, I believe that the, the things that we are campaigning for would do those things. You're not going to, like, bankrupt the gambling industry. Again, as I just mentioned about like kind of New York, you know, they've got plenty of latitude. They've, they've done very well out of the pandemic.

“This is not going to render them kind of unviable. What we're talking about here is maybe a short-term decline in profits because they derive so much from people who are addicted because ideally the measures will reduce the profits. They derive from those people and reduce losses. Then in the longer term you might, what you might see is people because at the moment the business model is they need new customers all the time because their primary source of revenue goes broke, placed extinction and they and eventually, you know, if you're, if what's driving the majority of the revenue, if those customers are losing all their money, and then you lose them as customers, as a result of that, because they self-exclude because they can't gamble anymore, then you need more customers.

“So therefore, you pump all this money into marketing. So, you have like, basically in the whole industry, a marketing budget about 1.5 billion, which if you take the whole gambling gross gambling revenue, that's about 10%, about 15 billion overall gross gaming revenue. But if you just say online gambling, and if you just say, well, okay, maybe, maybe it's 1 billion for online gambling only.

“And in 5 billion online gambling revenue, you're talking about 20% of their gross revenue that gets pumped back into marketing because they need new players all the time. Right. So what you might see instead is them actually fostering longer-term relationships with their customer. Where they can't just extract as much as they can out of a particular customer in the short term and then find another one because the marketing's been restricted or because they can't do that because of affordability, checks or restrictions on products or whatever. And then as a result of that, you might have people gambling who like gambling with them, who then don't get addicted or the harm is limited, but they do so for a much longer period.

“Which is in my view a much more sustainable way of operating an industry, a regulated industry. You don't then have the resulting kind of harm that comes as a cost to the government and to society, and then obviously to the individuals as well. So yeah, that's the utopia. I believe it's, it's possible.”

People will be familiar with the message at the end of gambling advertisements, ‘When the fun stops stop’, and ‘Be GambleAware’. But are these messages enough when it comes to gambling ads?

“I think that's been part of the issue, ‘When the Fun Stops. Stop.’ came from the Senate group, the Senate group was formed by the big betting operators in response to pressure over fixed odds betting terminals and it's industry funded. It was adopted then by Gamble Aware, again, industry funded.

“I mean, they've done an alright job of getting rid of all of the gambling industry trustees, and trying to appear independent, but, ultimately, they are dependent on the gambling industry for their funding and that funding can be withdrawn at any time.”

Maybe, then, it’s time for a new public health message?

“So, I completely agree. I think with the proper public health message, it would have to be coming from an independent organization, like a truly independent organization, whether it be government, a public body, or if we can sort out the levy – make it a mandatory levy, which is another thing we've been campaigning for, and it could be paid to an organization or an entity that has proper public oversight, proper accountability.

“The problem with charities is you can't like FOI (Freedom of Information) them, there's no transparency. You can't really outsource all of this stuff, really important [stuff], it’s a £15 billion sector. And you're outsourcing all of this stuff to, like, the charity which has very much historically been at least very connected to the industry and still dependent on the gambling industry for its funding – and then you're tasking that entity to come up with the public health message.

“So, you know, it's just, if you can sort the levy out – in my view – and you can make that all independent, then you can actually probably get more done.

“Like, this is why I think the NHS being more involved in the treatment space is just so important because, you know, all these clinics that are going to open, I think they've committed to 13 and then two for just children. I think all, you know, all of this stuff is it's much more important for the department of health to be involved.

“And hopefully eventually the department of health will be kind of tasked with developing that public health messaging.”

Sam and I were honoured to speak with Matt, who spoke eloquently and passionately about gambling and the surrounding industry.

Thanks to the work of Matt and other organisations, some mentioned in our pieces, the conversation surrounding gambling in football has been brought into the limelight.

We would once again like to thank Matt for his time and wish him all the best in his campaigning work in getting gambling ads out of football.



Kounde’s excellent performance demonstrates Chelsea’s youth crossroads

10/10/2021 - Premier League

By Louis Pantziarka, Chelsea writer

Thursday night’s Nations League semi-final between France and Belgium was probably the first Chelsea fans have seen of Jules Kounde since the group stages of last year’s Champions League. The Blues were heavily linked to the defender this summer, but a move never materialised – that hasn’t halted his progress though.

It took an impressive team performance from France to come back from 2-0 behind to UEFA’s number one ranked side, so the fact that Kounde stood out is a feat in itself. Playing on the right side of a back three, the centre back perfectly demonstrated why Thomas Tuchel was so keen on bringing him to West London.

With Toni Rudiger unlikely to be displaced from the left and Andreas Christensen and Thiago Silva holding down the central role, the Blues were keen to bring in a rotation option for Cesar Azpilicueta’s position on the right. Having played at right back in a back four, Kounde fits the profile perfectly as he show-cased on Thursday.

In possession Kounde performed a very similar role for France that Azpilicueta does for Chelsea – stepping forward into the half spaces and overlapping the right wing-back when appropriate. He posed a threat with his passing too, almost getting Kylian Mbappe in behind on several occasions.

That side to a defender’s game is no doubt key in today’s game, but Tuchel’s Chelsea are a formidable defensive unit, so how did he do in that respect? The answer is pretty good. Aside from an early scuffed clearance that forced Hugo Lloris into a fine save, Kounde was aggressive, powerful and physically dominant.

On more than one occasion he bailed his team out with a key interception – the highlight being a superb goal-saving tackle in the penalty area on Eden Hazard. Kounde was also willing to leave the security of his back line, following Belgian forwards into midfield when necessary. As a huge proponent of that tactic, Tuchel will have liked what he saw.

Now it didn’t escape my attention that Chelsea did not actually sign Kounde this summer. Instead the home-grown Trevoh Chalobah has been a revelation, scoring on both of his Premier League starts to date and fitting seamlessly into the first team without looking back.

Chalobah is fast becoming a fan favourite and has even been pushed into midfield when needed. A lot has been made of the impact of Chelsea’s academy players since Frank Lampard’s tenure and the spotlight has been on Tuchel to continue that trend since he took over.

With Tammy Abraham, Tino Livramento and Fikayo Tomori all offloaded this summer, Chelsea fans were entitled to think that their club was reverting to type. The last few weeks though have seen the re-emergence of Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Callum Hudson-Odoi, so it’s starting to feel as if the club are at a crossroads.

Of course it’s not completely improbable that Chelsea will move for Kounde regardless of Chalobah’s progress, to provide some strength in depth and competition for places. With Azpilicueta and Silva not getting any younger and Rudiger’s contract situation still uncertain, defence is likely to be an area that the Blues will be looking to strengthen in the near future.

If Chelsea do choose to sign Kounde this summer, and no one could blame them for it, it’s still fair to assume that Chalobah will be pushed down the pecking order. If they instead keep faith with one of their own, then it’s a clear signal to the rest of the academy that the promotion of youth team players was no flash in the pan.

Injury time ecstasy in seven goal thriller for Sutton

10/10/2021 - League Two

By Finley Chung, Sutton United writer

Coby Rowe bundled home an injury time winner for Sutton United to send them into the top seven places in the table after a topsy turvy, 4-3 win over Port Vale on Saturday afternoon. Nathan Smith and Michael Procter saw Vale race into a 2-goal lead after half an hour, however Rob Milsom halved the deficit before half time. Sutton levelled up to 2-2 before going down again, only to hit two late goals to secure the win in this thrilling encounter.

Matchwinner, Coby Rowe was the only change from last week’s win at Northampton, coming into the side for Ben Goodliffe who had sustained an injury. Both sides were looking for their third win in the last four matches and Matt Gray knew that Vale would provide a stern test to their home form which has only seen them lose once at home this season. Vale took the lead after 21 minutes when Nathan Smith, who stayed up from a corner got his head to a Michael Procter cross to put the visitors ahead. Procter then managed to get himself on the scoresheet seven minutes after the opener, after being found unmarked in the Sutton box to steer home and put the visitors two goals clear. After going close just after the opener, James Wilson again picked the ball up and went for the curler, but his shot lacked power and Dean Bouzanis held on, this was crucial as ten minutes after the second, Sutton halved the deficit when Rob Milsom’s shot cannoned off a Port Vale body and rolled into the corner to fuel the belief around the home fans at the VBS for the second half.

Vale started brighter in the second half with James Wilson again taking the contest to the hosts, with a fine solo run only to again foiled by Dean Bouzanis in the Sutton goal. Isaac Olafoe came on from the bench and his pace caused problems for the visitor’s defence and won a throw, which the visitors felt it should’ve gone their way, but the throw was Sutton’s and Milsom’s cross went into the box with Vale defender, Ben Garrity getting his footing all wrong and diverted the ball past his own keeper to level the scores after 69 minutes. Tom Conlon wasn’t about to let Sutton off the hook easily, he went close with a header just after the own goal, but got his goal soon after, crashing a shot into the back of the net with just over ten minutes to go to put the visitors back Infront.

With the clock ticking into single figures, you may think the fight in Sutton had gone, well anyone who even dared to think that would be proved wrong. Ricky Korboa and Joe Kizzi, Sutton’s other substitutes combined to send the ball into the box and Will Randall rose highest to nod the ball home to tie up the game once more. There was to be a seventh and final goal in the encounter and this is another one that Port Vale felt aggrieved by. George Lloyd was adjudged to have brought down his man and the referee awarded the free kick to Sutton in the 91st minute, the free kick was sent into the area, and it was bouncing around before landing at the feet of Coby Rowe who was on hand to stab the ball home and send the VBS into delirium. This win sent Sutton into the top seven, who came out on top in this crazy, seven goal thriller.

No gambling ads, working with DCMS, and Arsenal’s early 2000s form – Footrace meets Matt Zarb-Cousin

08/10/2021 - General

By Lewis Robinson and Sam Ketch

As Footrace’s self-appointed top writers, we had the opportunity to sit down with someone who, we were told, is the unofficial leader of the anti-gambling community. What we learned from Matt Zarb-Cousin went beyond what we were expecting. 

Whilst we prepared for our interview, we looked through everything Matt had achieved, and we knew we were dealing with someone of great importance to the community Footrace was made to serve. 

Co-founded Gamban, campaigned for the reduction in maximum stake on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals with the Campaign for Fairer Gambling, involved with Clean Up Gambling, the Coalition Against Gambling Ads (CAGA), and the Football Index Action Group. Matt’s been there in all the important moments, alongside his career as a political spokesperson, and he will continue while his expertise is still needed. 

We spoke to Matt days after the end of the Coalition Against Gambling Ads‘Park the Bus’ bus tour in September 2021, which went around the UK campaigning for the end to gambling advertising. Members of CAGA joined Peter Shilton to hand in his petition to 10 Downing Street, too. 

He was in jovial spirits, so what better way to change that than to ask about what a football match without gambling adverts would look like in the future. This evoked memories of a not-too-distant past in football, but – given he is a massive Arsenal fan – that can be a sad reminder. 

I remember very vividly the last time we won the league which was in 2003-04, I was only 14 at the time but I still remember it very vividly. I would never have thought that it would take 17 years to [win the league again] – well, longer than 17 years, I mean, we're not going to win it this year either. 

“So, from that point I remember and football, you know, it survived without gambling adverts. So, I think Arsenal's sponsor that year was O2. I mean, I'm not saying Arsenal have a gambling sponsor now, obviously, but clubs survived without gambling adverts – clubs, television channels, and broadcasters survived without gambling adverts.  

“ITV used to show the Champions League and that was before gambling adverts were allowed, they were allowed from 2007 onwards, so this idea that, you know, the clubs won't survive, or the TV channels won't survive; it's just complete nonsense. 

“So yeah, I mean, it would [a matchday] just look like it used to, and that would be a good thing for those of us that remember – and not just because of Arsenal’s form.” 

The point is clear: football was fine before gambling began overrunning every part of the sport, and it will be fine when gambling is removed from the sport too. 

But what will happen to money in football when these companies are banned from advertising around the sport? Football clubs are unlike conventional businesses; they spend all the money they earn. So, naturally, it will be replaced by something else, but if it isn’t that won’t matter too much – as Matt quite easily explained to us. 

“If you add up, in the top two tiers of English football, the amount of money that they get derived from gambling sponsorship, it equates to about seven and a half percent of transfer fees and wages which you might say is substantial.  

“Obviously, that's seven and a half percent that if that was removed, it's going to be replaced by something else to a degree, so it's not a seven and a half percent reduction. 

“But if they earn less, they'll just spend less. That's what we've seen with COVID, right? Their budgets have been reduced, so they've spent less in the transfer market overall.” 

There is almost a deliberate attempt to ignore the veracity of arguments from the reform community, mostly made up of lived-experience campaigners, about the effects of gambling advertisements.  

Those who complain of ‘prohibitionists’ will, of course, wilfully forget that beer, tobacco and fast-food advertisements are banned (interestingly the notable exception is the Community Shield, which is sponsored by McDonalds). 

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5 (DSM-5) established, for the first time, that gambling is an addiction on par with drug and alcohol addiction. But it is, Matt says, ironic that it has only been the time in between the liberalisation of gambling through the Gambling Act 2005 and the present day that the addictiveness of gambling has been recognised. 

Since the release of the DSM-5, Matt told us that people have: "learned more about gambling, gambling addiction, gambling harm, and what causes it and have understood that the products, gambling products and the accessibility, all plays a part in kind of inducing or exacerbating that.  

“And, therefore, if you want to reduce gambling harms, you have to regulate the industry. And that's the argument that we made when we wanted to reduce the maximum stake on fixed odds betting terminals. 

“And that was kind of accepted by the government. So, I think now that there is an acknowledgement and acceptance that the marketing promotion, accessibility and the types of products that are offered all contributes to the overall quantity of gambling harm.  

“The government's shifting in the direction that they did with tobacco and alcohol advertising. 

They're shifting in that direction, and I think at the very least we'll get rid of the shirt sponsors.” 

Of course, immediately football fans whose team has a gambling sponsor will be thinking what is the short-term future for them – and how quickly will it affect them? 

“It's [gambling sponsors being banned] happened in Spain already. It’s happened in Italy. 

“I think it's probably going to be announced in the white paper, which we'll see in December, and I think then you have a process of legislating and I think they'll probably give the clubs maybe one more season after this one, I don't know.  

“But I think that at the most, it will be one more season. I mean, you can't have this long review, which it's been quite a long process, and then come back and say ‘actually, yeah, we think the shirt sponsors are really harmful’ and then wait to do it. So, at that point, the pressure will be on them to do it quickly.” 

The eagle-eyed football fan will have noticed that most gambling advertisers are not UK-based; those who have dug deeper, or read Joey D’Urso in The Athletic, will know that most are not even targeting UK consumers of the Premier League. But don’t worry, the Government have noticed too. 

“I think that what the government has realized is a lot of these companies that are using the Premier League to advertise. And, actually, they don't really have much of a presence in the UK, and that they're doing that [running advertising and sponsoring clubs] to appeal to markets where gambling is illegal, like China, because they show the Premier League there and they see all the brands. 

“And that's why even some of the brands, some of the sponsors on the shirt, I mean, it's pretty obvious. It's just so blatant what they're doing. One example being Wolves with ManBetX, but it's just basically a blatant appeal to a market where online gambling is illegal and gambling advertising is illegal because they know that Premier League has global appeal.  

“So I think they've realized that, and they've also realized [that], I think with the exception of Bet365 and 32Red, which is a Kindred brand, none of the shirt sponsors actually have much of a UK presence.  

“I mean, you could argue Betway and Dafabet have some UK presence, but none of them are really based in the UK. And Bet365 is the only one that pays its taxes in the UK, so I think that they're weighing all of these things up. 

“I think these things will just resolve themselves and it then just becomes a moral decision, or a decision based on the evidence.” 

Around the time of the interview, the Boris Johnson Cabinet reshuffle was still top story in the news stuff; here is what Matt had to say about the new Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). 

“Well, I don't know Nadine Dorries. I look forward to engaging with her constructively during the review. Obviously, this is a very complex area and I'll be very happy to assist the government as and when appropriate, I've had very positive engagements with them. I think they understand that I'm coming at this from a place of wanting to get wanting to get it right.  

“You know, I want to get the regulations, right. I'm not trying to like settle scores, or anything like that. I just think that there's been a failure of gambling regulation and a fundamental misunderstanding that runs through legislation of gambling related harm and how it transpires; and I'm hoping that this review will correct it. 

“And I don't think this is an ideological thing. I think this is a matter of acting on the basis of evidence, and I think that is the reason that we've been able to build such strong cross-party support. 

“Ultimately, I think the Government is aware that the approach of DCMS and the civil servants has been, particularly in recent years, very much out of kilter with the sentiment in parliament and parliament ultimately makes the decisions because that's what's elected.  

“So, I think that the government's agenda is much more aligned to where parliament is on this stuff and overwhelmingly, they want to see quite significant gambling reform.” 

From gambling reform to cryptocurrency, we wanted to know the thoughts Matt had on the new phenom. Cryptocurrencies have entered football, quickly and without much attention being paid by the authorities. 

Given the volatile nature of any trading market – whether it’s the FTSE 100 Index, pounds sterling and dollars, or a recently ‘discovered’ (invented) digitally farmed virtual currency – the feeling around it is very similar to gambling. 

So, as crytpocurrency companies like Socios, come flying into the sport – what is the reaction of people, like Matt, campaigning against gambling in football. 

I mean, I highlighted to some degree the issues with crypto and some of these leveraged trading platforms, like Binance, where you can like bet the point basically, and even on spread betting platforms as well, which can be incredibly dangerous. 

“And when you're ‘investing’ in contracts for difference, you're not actually owning the underlying assets so you are just betting on price fluctuation, basically; for me, that's gambling. 

“There’s definitely been a blurring of the lines and it's something that I’ve raised with the Financial Conduct Authority. My view is that this should fall under the remit of the Gambling Commission, but obviously the Gambling Commission needs massive reform and more money and all that stuff. 

“And again, like, I think loot boxes should fall under the remit. I think there's that end of the spectrum as well.  

“So, gambling and wagering has shifted, absolutely. I think crypto definitely falls into it.” 

But it’s not just platituted with Matt. He’s taking action too. 

“I got involved with Gamban, I was co-founder of Gamban, which is the blocking software. We’ve started to block cryptocurrency now and those trading platforms, just because, if you were addicted to gambling, as I was, then it's not something that we should be kind of allowing really, you know, I think if you're really saying that it's gambling – I think it's really ill-advised to be getting involved in something as volatile as crypto, really.  

“Like even though they are FCA regulated, I mean, spread betting exists and is FCA regulated, which I think is ridiculous. 

"Crypto is unregulated and CFD platforms are FCA regulated. So, I think it's the next frontier to be honest, I think having a beefed-up gambling commission that can actually be proactive as well as reactive is the first step – and then we can start to hopefully tackle some of these new, new issues.” 

Don’t get him started on Socios, though. 

“Arsenal have got one now, Arsenal have got one now. I mean, the worst thing about the Arsenal one is they almost like tried to sell it to the fans as if this was like some kind of new form of democracy in the club. And they were going to be able to, to have an influence over the club and stuff. 

“And you just, what do you do? You get to vote online? Who sponsors the training ground or something stupid, you know, nothing really.” 

You may be wondering, as you begin digesting all the information you were perhaps unaware of, how football clubs themselves are reacting to the situation. 

“James Grimes who runs The Big Step and he was involved with CAGA, he's met with like Premier League and the EFL and their line is always the same. It's just ‘well it's up to the clubs’, but they don't want to take any kind of position on it.  

“Some clubs have been quite proactive, obviously Swansea's terminated their arrangements with a gambling sponsor. Tranmere, Lewes, Edinburgh City, Forest Green, I'm trying to not forget anyone. 

“Yeah, so the leagues haven't been great. I mean, they probably know, they're not blind to public opinion and they're not blind to the opinion of fans. But, again, they just outsource all of the difficult decisions to the clubs. They're not going to take any kind of position on it.” 

But there is a notable exception in football. 

"The FA terminated the partnership that the England team had with Ladbrokes a few years ago. And they did so, because their argument was ‘well, if the players can’t gamble then why are they promoting gambling’, which is a pretty compelling argument. And obviously the impact on children and the sense of social responsibility.”  

“Their arguments quite interesting. They were saying that they would support moves towards some kind of licensing arrangement, where if a gambling company wanted to offer bets on their sport then they would have to pay a license fee to the FA. 

“This would mean that the money from gambling could be equitably redistributed to all the leagues, all the clubs, [and] could be used to fund grassroots sport and all that kind of stuff. But without having to in return promote gambling.  

“So it's just like, we want to offer the bets on this sport then you have to pay this license fee. But you won't do that in exchange for promotion. 

“And I thought that was really interesting, and it's something that happened in France apparently. One of the obstacles to that previously was the European law, even though the French didn't care, they just did it anyway. 

“But apparently, we were kind of quite apprehensive about it because of being in the EU, that's not the case anymore. So I mean, that would be quite good.  

“And there's a fan led review of football at the moment that's being carried out by Tracy Crouch. I understand that this component is being looked at.” 

A message of hope at the end, then, that the fan led review – which we have previously discussed on Footrace, when Maurício Alencar wrote about beer and football – is looking into the issues at hand with gambling. 

This is only part one of the interview with Matt. To read more of his insight, and to learn some of the more hidden components of the gambling in football story – come back on Monday. 

Will the Bantams get revenge from last years defeat in Wales?

08/10/2021 - League Two

By Fletcher Smith, Bradford City writer

The Bantams are set to travel to Wales in anticipation for their matchday-11 clash against Newport County at the Rodney Parade Stadium. Bradford City returned to winning ways last week after securing a 2-0 victory over Rochdale courtesy of goals from Alex Gilliead and Andy Cook.

The Exiles former gaffer and ex-Bantam Michael Flynn recently departed and is linked to be lining up with rival-Wealsh club Cardiff City. Newport seemed to enjoy the change in management after trashing Scunthorpe 3-0 which pushed them to 12th place with an overall of 14 points this campaign.

The new Boss for the hosts is Wayne Hatswell as the caretaker, this is his second managerial opportunity after being the gaffer of Stamford AFC. Wayne also featured for Newport as a player throughout the 2011/12 season which he played 23 times in, and scoring 2 goals.

The player to watch from the Bantams for this fixture is explosive-midfielder Levi Sutton. After starting in their victory over Rochdale, Levi’s first-half strike and incredible solo-run helped Derek Adam’s to secure the first victory in 5 weeks.

The Bantam’s currently have 1 first-team candidates injured, Niall Canava is unavailable for this clash due to an injury and is expected to be back in late October. Lee Angol, Abo Eisa, Theo Robinson and Lavery have all been in light-training this week but are still suspected to miss tomorrows game.

A home win for Newport gives you 18 points and an away win for the Bantams claims another 18 points.

Suttton welcome Port Vale to the VBS

08/10/2021 - League Two

By Finley Chung, Sutton United writer

It’s been quite the start to October for Sutton United. Notching their first ever EFL win on the road against Northampton Town last weekend, then having manager, Matt Gray, and defender, Joe Kizzi, nominated for the League 2 Manager and Player of the month awards for September respectively.

Next on their agenda is a visit from Darrel Clarke’s Port Vale side, who make the trip down south to the VBS.

Port Vale currently sit third in the league and are on a belting run of form after an early season slump. Since failing to score in their first three games of the season, the Valliant’s have hit the back of the net in every game since and have shot up the table as a result. They, like Sutton, also picked up three points last time out but it was a lot more stressful for their fans.

An 86th minute goal from Orient's Tom James looked to have given the London side the points, but Bolton loanee Dennis Politic and Jamie Procter both snapped back and sent Vale into delirium with two very late goals, to snatch the 3-2 win for the hosts. With only two losses in the league to their name so far this season, Sutton have a huge task at hand, when Clarke’s Valliant’s come South on Saturday.

Matt Gray has led his Sutton side on a brilliant run so far this season, notching up 3 wins out of 4 in September, and, alongside Darrel Clarke of Vale, is in the running for the Manager of the Month for September. The win over Northampton continued their impressive form which has seen them rise to 11th in the table. Winning four of their last five games and being in good home form will worry Clarke and his Vale side, who are certain to be in for a tough encounter on Saturday.

Like usual, Footrace points are available for this fixture. 18 points are available if you fancy Sutton to take all three points as the home side. The same value is there if you think Port Vale can win this one, with 20 points available if you think the draw is going to be the outcome.

Late disappointment for Sheffield Wednesday

06/10/2021 - League One

By Jude Hall, Sheffield Wednesday writer


It’s one step forwards, two steps backwards for Darren Moore’s men who were condemned to defeat by Oxford United this weekend.

On the 6th minute an emotional Hillsborough rose to sing the name of Jose Semedo who’s wife Soraia tragically passed this week. The former Wednesday midfielder was a firm fans favourite making 144 league appearances for the club and the Portuguese will have certainly felt the support of everyone at S6.

It took just 12 minutes for The Owls to fall behind, when Marvin Johnson was dispossessed cheaply before Cameron Brannagan’s near post effort went through Bailey Peacock-Farrell and into the Kop net. It’s another moment that the Northern Ireland goalkeeper won’t want to watch back.

In another dismal first half display from Wednesday the only moment of note was Barry Bannan’s fierce effort from just inside the box was tipped over by Jack Stevens in the Oxford goal.

The hosts found themselves fortunate not to be two down just after the break when a cross found its way to Matty Taylor on the edge of the six-yard-box but his volleyed effort was brilliantly kept out by Peacock-Farrell, atoning for his earlier error.

With just under 20 minutes remaining The Owls found a leveller. Johnson’s pinpoint cross was headed home by Callum Paterson for his second goal in as many games, with the Wednesday players paying their own tribute holding up a Semedo shirt during their celebrations.

However, it was to be late agony once again at Hillsborough when substitute James Henry poked the ball past Peacock-Farrell deep into stoppage time and send the visiting fans into delirium.

A disappointed Darren Moore said:

“It looked like a tired display in the first half. We made more of a game of it in the second half. I was pleased with the second half. Did I see that goal coming at the end? No, I didn't. I was shocked to see that hit the back of the net.”

With pressure starting to grow on the Wednesday boss, it’s clear that results need to change sooner rather than later with the Hillsborough faithful growing restless. The Owls take a trip to Mansfield Town on Tuesday night for the Papa John’s Trophy before hosting Bolton Wanderers next Saturday, in what is an important week for the Wednesday manager.




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