Wayne Rooney will leave DC United and join the SkyBet Championship side Derby County in January it has been announced. England’s all time leading goal scorer will wear the number 32 which, not-so-coincidentally, is also representative of the club’s main shirt sponsor, online casino and sportsbook 32Red.
Rooney, who is also his country’s second most-capped player of all time, is set to take up a position as player-coach with The Rams as soon as the current MLS season comes to a close after Christmas.
That Rooney’s number should be 32, the same as 32Red, is treading some very dodgy ground, however, especially in current climate where such publicity stunts by gambling firms are not well received. 32Red, who also sponsor fellow Championship sides Leeds United, Middlesbrough and Preston North End, are paying Rooney 80% of the reported £7,500,000 he will earn from his contract, an offer that Derby, who will fork out a weekly £20,000+, couldn’t have afforded otherwise. The average weekly wage in the Championship is £20,000.
Crafty And Crass Move From Derby
Sports Minister Nigel Adams has labelled the announcement “very crafty” and said that Derby should consider the impact of their actions, saying,
” The No 32 shirt is a very crafty move by Derby. It did raise an eyebrow when I saw the 32 number on Wayne Rooney’s shirt. Clubs need to be very conscious of that link with gambling. Hopefully Derby County will be mindful and will be talking to the FA because we have to make sure we look after those who are vulnerable. There is problem gambling in our country so we have to be very careful about the message that football is sending.”
The move was also branded as “crass” by Richard Caborn, who was a founding member of the 2005 Gambling Act, adding that he thought the whole thing was “embarrassing” and a further sign that gambling operators are abusing their position. The Church of England and healthcare groups have also voiced their concerns.
One area of concern centres on child replica kits. While 32Red will not appear on any replica children’s shirts, as prohibited by regulations, there is nothing to prevent young Derby fans from putting the shirt number 32 on the back of the shirt, which will almost certainly be the top selling number now. Come January, Pride Park is likely to be buzzing with Rams followers all with Rooney’s name – and a gambling company’s – number on their backs.
It has provided a convenient work around given that bookmakers’ logos cannot be blazoned across replica children’s shirts. Under normal circumstances, many football clubs opt for putting charities on children’s kits instead. The FA have said that, while they are monitoring the situation, they are unable to intervene as yet as the player is still part of the MLS until January. 32Red have said that their agreement “complies with FA regulations”.
Ironically, and somewhat awkwardly, Rooney, who will turn 34 in October, has been forced to promise his wife that he will give up gambling. The former Everton and Manchester United star once blew £500,000 at Manchester’s 235 Casino inside of two hours so this latest stunt feels more than a little ill-advised from him, especially given that he can afford such a loss while many others cannot.
Betting Is Part Of The Game
The Premier League’s acting chief executive Richard Masters told the BBC that betting is part of the game and that he sees no reason for football to act as football clubs have had relationships with betting companies for a long time.
Half of Premier League clubs have shirt sponsors that are gambling companies, the joint highest amount ever in England’s top flight. In the SkyBet Championship, Derby are one of 16 clubs whose main sponsor is a betting firm, 15 of which are displayed on the front of their shirts.
Recently, GVC are one of the operators who have acted appropriately, removing their Betdaq brand from the shirts of Sunderland and Charlton, while Paddy Power has also responded to the problem. However, in the case of Paddy Power, they couldn’t resist doing so by way of a publicity stunt that, again, was not well received.
Paddy’s Save Our Shirt campaign, where they ‘unsponsor’ Huddersfield Town, Motherwell, Newport County, Southend United and Macclesfield Town by taking their logo off their shirts, is in direct contrast to other operators’ approach to shirt sponsorship but still raised a lot of publicity in doing so after they had originally announced a huge deal with Huddersfield complete with silly sized logo on the kit.
Gambling firms also recently agreed to stop advertising during live sports in what has been called a whistle to whistle ban.