532 Words on: Football and pokie trusts

I don’t know how many fans care too deeply about what’s written on their favourite team’s shirt as they wear it with pride, but I certainly do. It makes me sad that big overseas clubs accept sponsorship money from the likes of crass gambling websites that make considerable profits from praying on the poor and vulnerable.

Meanwhile, here in New Zealand, the proceeds of gambling are still a major feature of the financial model of many of our top clubs.

I don’t hate gambling. I engage in the odd flutter myself, but I also have first hand experience of where it can lead and the people who get hurt both directly and indirectly as a result of problem gambling. Like cigarettes, gambling is highly addictive and once you’re hooked it can ruin your life along with the lives of the people you love. We don’t allow football clubs to be sponsored by tobacco companies anymore, for good reason. So why do we allow it from pokie trusts?

The question is should something good come back to the community from problem gambling and its associated social problems or is it immoral to take money extracted from other people’s misery?

I tell myself that the status quo is the lesser of two evils. The proceeds of gambling are better spent in sports like football than in the hands of big business. At least football is a healthy social activity that encourages people to be physically active and engaged in their communities rather than wasting their lives staring at slot machines.

But if that’s the case, is the best use of that money paying elite and supposedly amateur footballers and making sure men’s national league and NRFL teams have fancy gear, the latest kits and sweet rides to away games? Or should it be used to grow participation throughout the age groups, genders and skill levels to maximise the social benefits and go some way along the path towards offsetting the harm caused by where the dosh came from?

A gender analysis of where pokie funding goes would be an interesting exercise in itself. My guess is that, in football, it gets invested in the men’s game to a disproportionate degree. This is yet another flaw in the argument that men in the game get more money invested in them because they attract more revenue due to sponsors preferring their product.

The only legitimate reasons I can think of for a pokie trust to invest more money in men’s football are either because they see more applications for funding from the men’s game or there’s something seriously wrong with their criteria.

There are sustainability issues too. Football used to be propped up by tobacco money, then it was beer money, and after both of those rivers of gold were outlawed we moved on to where we are now.

Where else can the money come from though? If it’s not from paying spectators (LOL) it’s likely to be from the poor old subs paying social players who are already contributing more than their share and playing in ten year old kits with no refs for the privilege!

Or maybe we are just living beyond our means…