Wow, the Isthmian League has done me in. And so has the Southern League and the Northern Premier League.
You may have noticed that I have not mentioned the sponsors’ name. And in this blog, I will never do so. Part of that is because I don’t particularly like talking about sponsors’ names anyway if they’re tacked on the beginning of a league name. But this one…it shouldn’t do but it’s got to me.
I don’t like gambling companies in the slightest. My opinion of them is so low that to compare their low status in my mind with something would be a mortal insult to that something. I will admit that for my hobby of collecting football scores, one or two of the websites are pretty useful for collating the actual scores (I don’t think they’re the bookmakers’ websites, just comparison sites with scores archives hidden in their depths, and yes I do worry sometimes as to whether I’m a bit hypocritical for using these sites…), but as for odds and the like, I pay no attention.
Even though I reckon that I would be dire at it (and therefore that makes me the perfect audience for the exceedingly pithy, stupid and inane adverts that flood the sports channels), I am not allowed to bet on football. No footballer or club official can. It is completely verboten, and that includes any football league, from the English Premiership all the way to the Martian seven-legged jogging leagues.
So we have this hypocrisy that the league that my club plays in is now sponsored by a betting company, but as a club official I am banned from using this company to bet on football. (I am having visions of one of Eric Idle’s characters in the Life of Brian and his argument that he wants the right to have babies…) And not only that, but to quote our friends at Carshalton Athletic and their Twitter feed: Online gambling is a cause of misery, hardship, poverty and mental illness. Whilst their chairman Paul Dipre pens a statement to expand on that, something I look forward to reading, I completely support those words from that particular tweet.
As a mental health sufferer myself, thankfully I haven’t been close to the edge for a number of years but for over two decades I have been taking “happy pills” to help me get by, I know some of the vulnerabilities that can cause. Addictions are easy to get caught in as it is, I believe that a mental health sufferer is ever more susceptible to them and it disturbs me that our league is now sponsored by a company that actively encourages gambling addiction. I don’t excuse them anything for some of the ads that tell people to slow down their bets when the next one encourages you to bet on how many corners a team wins or when the next throw-in is going to happen or who will be the next player booked, in reality they don’t give a darn unless you give them your credit or debit card details and keep on pressing those buttons.
I’m not one who wants to put his quaker hat on and summon up my inner Cromwell and ban gambling (and laying bloody siege to Ireland is a thoroughly awful idea and should be swiftly beaten down), if you want to bet on anything, go right ahead, I’m not going to stop you. But, and this is where my dilemma is coming in, I am the communications man for a club in a league that is sponsored by a betting company. Which means that in many places, the league sponsor’s name is going to be very evident. It’s already on the website (apologies but we are unable to block it from our youth, under 18s and Kingstonian Mind United pages – so ironic that in the same week that we announce a partnership with a mental health charity, this league sponsor stunt is performed – we’d like to block them but we can’t, it’s technically not possible), it will be on the front cover of the programme, there may well be a page in the programme, there will be a welcome board outside the ground with its name on (there may even be two if room is found for one for each of the two clubs playing at KGF). I might even be forced to continually mention the name on the microphone, and have the logo on the team sheets.
As you might imagine from my bleating for the last seven hundred words or so, this is not sitting well with me whatsoever. I’d be more comfortable sitting at the Kop End at Anfield wearing a Manchester City shirt with Raheem Sterling’s name on it. My dilemma basically comes down to this, and I don’t yet have an answer: I don’t want to tacitly “approve” of this by blissfully making announcements as if it’s something I find acceptable. If the league wants to force the issue in things that I write and say then I have to make a big decision, and to decide in one particular direction because I am so uncomfortable means letting everyone at Kingstonian down. Rest assured that if it happens then no-one at Kingstonian is even in the slightest bit to blame, but I really don’t want it to happen like that (season tickets are quite inexpensive, though…). If it doesn’t happen and I decide to shut up and put up with it, then rest assured that I don’t approve of this and don’t want to give it the time of day.
There are only two ways of making me feel so uncomfortable about things that I would think about walking away for moral reasons, this is one of them. The other, in case you’re interested, isn’t that likely to happen, as it means a very long FA Cup run – there’s been a few instances when non-league clubs have had extra long FA Cup runs, they’re on telly against one of the big Premiership boys and suddenly they are sponsored by one particular “news”paper – I am an immense admirer of Sutton United but when they went and did it when they got to the Fifth Round, I was very disappointed in them. As a lifelong Liverpool supporter, that would be intolerable. Anyway, in my time at Kingstonian we haven’t got past the Third Qualifying Round so that is one heck of a “what if” to conjure up…, and anyway anyway, I don’t think we’d do it.
Well, as I type this, the league fixtures apparently come out in about an hour and a half, I’m hoping for a long trip away on opening day, and if they forget to give us a Boxing Day fixture then that’s fine with me as well! Wow, I was actually beginning to look forward to the season a little bit what with K’s having a new management team and an almost all-new playing squad, but the powers that be (who definitely had my respect but will now be struggling mightily to re-earn it from me, not that they probably care) have really smashed that optimism down with a sledgehammer.
I’ll be at Dorking on Saturday if anyone wants to have a chat in the prawn sandwich section…