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EDITORIAL: Everton must cut ties with Sportpesa immediately

'The People's Club' moniker is in danger of being tarnished

Everton FC Announce New Main Partner ‘Sportpesa’
Robert Elstone of Everton (R) and Ivo Bozukov of SportPesa
Photo by Tony McArdle/Everton FC via Getty Images

Everton have done well in the last decade or so cultivating their ties with the Merseyside community as ‘The People’s Club’. From the excellent work done by charity arm Everton in the Community, to the extensive research and consultations being done with the community in ensuring the new stadium at Bramley-Moore dock will be a shining jewel and a beacon of hope and opportunity for the area, Everton have made all the right moves as a socially responsible club, except one.

Two summers ago, Everton’s long-standing shirt-sponsorship contract with Chang came to an end. To the dismay of many fans though, the Blues announced that the new main sponsor coming in to replace them was betting upstart Sportpesa, a conglomerate of Kenyan, Bulgarian and American investors. To seal the deal, the firm even moved their British headquarters to the Royal Liver Building, that Everton majority shareowner Farhad Moshiri had recently purchased.

The disappointment came from the fact that gambling addiction is on the rise in not just the United Kingdom but the world as a whole, and especially in Third World countries like Kenya and Tanzania where Sportpesa are based.

And Everton are not the only side to resort to signing deals with a gambling firm either. Next season will see fully half (10 of 20) of Premier League clubs and nearly three-quarters (17 of 24) of Championship teams being sponsored by a betting firm.

Last week, the Kenyan government suspended the betting licenses of two local firms — Sportpesa and Betin — days after directing local telecommunications firm Safaricom to stop processing payments for all sports betting in the country.

That immediately raised concerns about the future of the company and their commitment to Everton, with three years yet to run on the contract. The Guardian then published a damning exposé of the gambling addiction that has overrun Kenya, and the big part that pioneers Sportpesa have played in it.

The overwhelming feeling among Evertonians everywhere, especially so now that spotlight has been shined on the murky dealings and catastrophic effects online gambling has had on people worldwide, is one of disgust and how this simply is not us as a club and the values we represent.

If you read through the thread posted above, there are some sobering statistics as to how deep-rooted the gambling problem has become in modern society. Take this for example just in the UK:

From a recent debate in the House of Lords. Exact numbers are difficult, but estimates quoted:
* 100 people hospitalised a year due to gambling addiction. A 60% increase in 5 years.
* problem gambling costs the NHS £260m - £1.2 billion a year.
* Suicides: 1-2 daily.

The problem as you can imagine is much worse in developing nations. While you would think that gambling might be a bigger issue among the uneducated and underprivileged, even University students are struggling with this, such as in Kenya:

Nearly half of all respondents admitted to one or more signs of being at risk of problem gambling behaviour:
* 50% said they needed to gamble with increasing amounts of money
* 30% said they were preoccupied with betting
* 20% said they gambled the day after a loss in order to recoup it
* 20% reported making repeated unsuccessful efforts to stop, or cut back, on gambling
* 3% said they had committed an illegal act to finance gambling.

Sportpesa is netting an astounding $2 billion a year from a pverty-stricken and famished developing country like Kenya certainly does not sit well with Blues. To add to that, the company has done so little to contribute to social causes that support those afflicted by the gambling that they support is even more disappointing, and once again, does not reflect well on us as Evertonians.

Even Betway, the West Ham United sponsors do more than Sportpesa — but it’s still just a drop in the bucket considering how much these firms are making of an addictive hobby that spirals out of control for many. Recently the BBC did an extensive look at how deep-rooted the problem has become, and the history behind the now commonly-used slogan “When the fun stops, stop”.

There is a lot more that has been researched about gambling than we can cover in-depth here, but we certainly recommend you read the articles in The Guardian and in F: Uncovered to get a true picture of how the money that Everton are receiving is being made.

While it’s not quite ‘blood diamonds’ here, it’s not that far either. Everton have a social standing to uphold, and if they will not terminate the contract with Sportpesa, at the every least they can demand much more accountability from the company towards addressing gambling addiction and support.