Queens Park Rangers F.C.’s former defender, Rio Ferdinand, has caused angry reactions online, after he promoted a online casino via his Twitter account. Many are calling it foul play: as the former England and Manchester United player, also a public sports figure is endorsing gambling openly. Outrage from fans came pouring out against his new advertising deal. The QPR and ex-England star will now be the new face of a site that lets users bet on sports fixtures and virtual casino games such as poker.
On Wednesday this past week, he tweeted to his over six million followers the line: “Play at my favourite @CasinoFloorUK tonight & have 55 free spins on me.” And followed it up with a link to the site.The backlash he faced on the social networking site were coming mostly from fans, who now branded him irresponsible and money-grabbing for selling out. One remark was: “An absolute disgrace Rio that you are plugging this gambling rubbish. Shame on you.” Another grilled him: “You have responsibilities as a role model. Gambling rips families apart.” The controversy comes from the fact that Casino Floor UK’s site has been criticized for including a range of simple video games, based on fairy tales and cartoons, which look as if they are aimed at youth.
Legally under 18s are barred from gambling but Twitter’s minimum age limit is 13, and the dad-of-three Ferdinand is being harshly mocked for not adding the optional “adult content” alert to his page since his endorsement deal began so that youth would not be exposed to his endorsement tweets. Fans and parents alike fear the Premier League star will be directly influencing kids to become interested in casinos and gambling. Another tweet said: “Scamming your young followers with gambling?” Another read: “Haven’t enough money without promoting gambling? Grim.”
The rules were changed last year that previously barred players from betting on fixtures worldwide. The FA alterations also banned bets on any football matters, including transfers/trades/loans, employment of managers and team selections, all that can have odds put on them on the casino site that Ferdinand is now endorsing. The former defender, who’s mow 36, was paid £200,000 a week at the height of his career with Manchester United and earns £80,000 with his new club. But his colleagues are no strangers to tragedies that have happened to a string of players who financially were ruined by gambling in general.
A recent example would be Ex-Liverpool and Scotland star Dominic Matteo, 40, who admitted losing £1 million on horse racing alone, and said his gambling addiction was rooted in the “epidemic in English football”. Former West Ham and Stoke winger Matthew Etherington, age 33, lost more than £1.5 million on online poker and racing. Luckily he was able to turn things around thanks to the Sporting Chance clinic set up by ex-England defender Tony Adams, 48, to help footballers who fall prey to addictions such as gambling. Adams, the former Arsenal captain, himself a recovering alcoholic, said his clinic is now dealing with more gambling cases than any other form of addiction among current and former players. In the face of these reports, when media reached to them, both Ferdinand and the FA declined to comment.
The longer term effect on his fans and the influence of sports endorsing online gambling is yet to be seen, but what is clear, is that general population and fans of both the sport and of online gambling do see that there is a possible conflict of interest here. What will be interesting is to see how other countries outside the UK react to these events.