In a unique collaborative effort, Swedish elite football clubs, Svensk Elitfotboll (SEF), Unibet, and the treatment centre Spelfriheten are together addressing the issue of problem gambling in sports. They are currently on a roadshow, already visiting more than two-thirds of the clubs in Allsvenskan and Superettan, to emphasise the potential problems that can arise from harmful gambling and educate players, staff, and leaders on responsible gambling practices.
Promoting Responsible Gambling
As of October 2023, 21 Allsvenskan and Superettan clubs have already completed responsible gambling training, reaching over 600 players and staff members. The project has been met with positive feedback from participants who value the knowledge and awareness Spelfriheten provides, in addition to plans to continue visiting clubs and follow up with those who have already received training until the end of 2023.
During these club visits, Spelfriheten representatives share their personal experiences as either gambling addicts or relatives of people with an addiction. Besides them, there is also one behaviour therapist or psychologist present. Their insights shed light on the significant impact of gambling addiction on families and loved ones. Players and club leaders are educated on identifying warning signs and how to act. They learn about the consequences of harmful gambling, not only for individuals but also for their families and the wider community.
Understanding the Risk Environment
Spelfriheten, a treatment centre specialising in assisting people with gambling addiction, is working hand in hand with SEF and Unibet to tackle issues related to responsible gambling. Allan Erdman, Communications Manager at Spelfriheten, points out, "That elite sports and team sports constitute a risk environment is something we have understood among our help seekers for some time." This statement underscores the seriousness of the issue, which has been acknowledged by those seeking help. The scope of the problem is vast, with examples ranging from football to ice hockey, floorball, and handball. However, the issue isn't limited to these sports alone; it extends to other environments where competition and proximity to gambling are prevalent.
Addressing the Issue
Sports and the gambling industry have a long history of collaboration. However, this partnership aims to address the inherent risks associated with gambling. SEF is fully aware of these risks and wants to take a proactive approach to prevent harmful gambling within their leagues.
Anders Wikström, the Sports Integrity Manager at SEF, stresses the importance of addressing the issue, stating that everyone should know the help available. He emphasises collaboration and education to deal with these issues effectively. "These issues are important for the whole society. We want to take responsibility for our players, and we do that best through collaboration and education," he says. "Through this cooperation, we can offer hands-on support for those in need. We need to remember that gambling is entertainment for most people, but for some, it can go overboard. Therefore, we want to be proactive to prevent individuals from getting into gambling problems and reactive to help those needing help quickly".
Recognising the Risks
Anders Falk, Sponsorship Manager at Unibet, underlines the importance of Unibet's role in promoting sustainable and responsible gambling. "We are fully aware of the risks of gambling, and we take it very seriously. Therefore, it was important for us that Unibet and SEF got the collaboration and lectures with Spelfriheten in place. Now we have the opportunity to visit the clubs and talk directly to players and leaders, preventing harmful gambling within the SEF leagues," he says." For us it is truly important that we can influence and make positive change through our sponsorship". The focus is on education and offering support to those who need it.
This collaboration between SEF, Unibet, and Spelfriheten exemplifies how stakeholders can come together to address critical issues within the sports industry. The cooperation aims to create a safer and more responsible environment for players and their communities by promoting responsible gambling and offering support to those in need.