Thursday, November 29, 2007

A Bad Gamble

I'm disturbed by a recent trend that's been occurring in football, mostly in Europe. That is the trend of gambling websites sponsoring teams on their shirts. Some prime examples have been Sevilla, Real Madrid, Werder Bremen, and my beloved AC Milan (Werder has since switched to Citibank as its sponsor). While I personally don't have anything against gambling per se, I believe it is a mistake for sports leagues and clubs to align themselves so closely and overtly to big-time gambling interests.

I come from the U.S. where gambling on sports is illegal in most places but there is never a problem if you want to place any type of bet. I will admit our sports leagues take a very hypocritical stance on gambling. They try to act like they are against it while encouraging and even catering to it. But I almost think that is the best approach. When you so closely embrace gambling on sports by letting gambling businesses advertise with you, you are essentially endorsing it. And if it is legal as it appears to be in Europe, then logically those folks that might have been discouraged by the illegality of it(yes, there are actually people like that) will now not have that concern. Gambling on sports will become exponentially more rampant. The main problems with that are 1. that the unfortunate truth is gambling is a serious problem for a lot of people that ends up ruining a lot of lives, and 2. gambling has called into question the integrity of many sports throughout the world at different times throughout history. Football may be gambling's biggest victim. And no club has been involved in more scandal than AC Milan, who had to endure a match fixing scandal in 79/80's as well as in 2006/07. Match fixing happens because of gambling. So why the club would now have bwin as their sponsor is just baffling to me. Milan along with Real Madrid are supposed to be two of the classiest operations in world football, yet are accepting advertising on their sacred shirts from an industry that at best is a human vice and at worst undermines the integrity of the game. It leaves me scratching my head.

I guess this is something that is here to stay, but I just wanted to put my two cents in. I want to keep the social commentary to a minimum here, but at the same time this issue cuts to the heart of the games we love so much. Hopefully this trend won't become too wide spread.

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