AFC Wimbledon have become the fifth English league club to take a stand against gambling advertising in football by signing up for the Big Step campaign.
The League Two side have joined Luton, Bolton, Forest Green and Tranmere in supporting the campaign, which is calling for an end to all gambling and betting related sponsorship in football.
“If you look at gambling and the damage that it can obviously cause … it’s touched a lot of people, probably more than we even realise,” said the AFC Wimbledon manager, Johnnie Jackson. “The more awareness around gambling you can create, the better.”
The Dons, now ninth in the fourth tier of English football, have joined more than 30 other professional clubs after putting the decision to members of the Dons Trust, the supporters’ group which owns the south-west London club. Of the 1,199 members consulted, 79% voted to join the Big Step’s campaign.
“I think the fact that many people voted it through shows just how prevalent the problems around [gambling] are – and how much people are affected by it, whether it’s themselves or the people around them,” Jackson added.
AFC Wimbledon will work in partnership with Gambling with Lives, the charity behind the Big Step, which was set up by bereaved families to promote awareness of the risks of gambling. The club has pledged to promote preventive messages, and provide training and education about gambling addiction in the community.
“As a club at the heart of our community, we are committed to being a force for good,” said Michele Little, a club director at AFC Wimbledon. “We took the decision some time ago not to accept gambling advertising or sponsorship as a club. Now with the backing of our owners – the fans – we’re signing up to the Big Step, and saying it’s time to end the harm gambling advertising in football causes.”
Professional football’s relationship with gambling advertising has come under renewed scrutiny after the Brentford striker Ivan Toney and the Newcastle midfielder Sandro Tonali received lengthy bans for breaching betting regulations.
The Premier League will ban gambling firms from sponsoring the front of teams’ shirts from the 2026-27 season, but will still allow sleeve sponsorships and betting-related advertising on hoardings at top-flight grounds. The UK government’s April 2023 white paper 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 – with just 7% of that total on the front of shirts. Another found that football fans received 11,000 gambling messages during the opening weekend of the Premier League season in August.
“We’re thrilled to have the backing of Wimbledon and their owners – the fans,” said Tom Fleming, communications manager for the Big Step and Gambling with Lives. “Gambling advertising is unhealthy and unpopular, so the club’s decision is welcome good news after the sharp rise in high-profile players harmed by gambling.
“We’re sure that if it were down to the fans of each club, no club would partner with a gambling company. We still hope the government will take control and end gambling advertising in football but in the meantime, it’s so important that clubs like AFC Wimbledon have taken a stand to protect their fans.”
Other clubs who have signed up to the campaign include the Women’s Championship side Lewes and Scottish women’s league champions Glasgow City, as well as Dulwich Hamlet, Drogheda United, Partick Thistle and Sligo Rovers.