Former gambling addicts march on Wembley ahead of Euro 2020

A group of 30 former gambling addicts, from the campaign group The Big Step, who are walking 300 mil

A group of 30 former gambling addicts, from the campaign group The Big Step, who are walking 300 miles in 10 days calling for an end to betting adverts in football. Picture date: Wednesday June 9, 2021. - Credit: PA

A group of former gambling addicts and bereaved relatives are marching from Scotland to Wembley in protest at betting advertising shown during Euro 2020.

Thirty people from campaign group The Big Step are walking 300 miles across the country, stopping at football stadiums along the way.

Some of those involved have lost loved ones, who took their own lives as a result of gambling.

Others were pushed to the brink of suicide themselves — including James Grimes, the founder of The Big Step and programme manager at Gambling With Lives.

“Very quickly into my recovery, I realised I couldn’t watch football without wanting to put a bet on, because the advertising I found so triggering,” Mr Grimes said.

One walker, Chris Gilham, said he planned to take his own life after taking out a £25,000 loan and losing it within two hours on a bet.

He said: “I sat there and I planned to take my own life.

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“The plan was to win enough money to leave to my wife and two children.”

After he lost, he said he was faced with a choice to either “find recovery or end it all”.

“I’m very, very lucky that I found recovery. That same week, I went to my first Gamblers Anonymous meeting,” he said.

Mr Grimes said: “Every time we watch football we’re being told to ‘bet now’, ‘bet more’, ‘play now’ — it’s just not fair.

“We are calling on broadcasters to suspend gambling ads during the Euros just for the protection of the millions of English, Welsh and Scottish fans that will be watching this tournament.

“National tournaments are unique because the whole country seems to engage in them, and that’s why they shouldn’t be used as a chance to just promote addictive products.”

Passing grounds including Old Trafford in Manchester, Coventry's Ricoh Arena and stadium: mk in Milton Keynes. The march ends at Wembley Stadium on Sunday, when England face Croatia in their first game. 

Mr Grimes compared the removal of gambling advertising to that of the ban on tobacco commercials and said people should still be free to bet if they choose to do so.