St Albans Bishop on Wayne Rooney gambling sponsorship controversy: "Football needs to wake up"
PUBLISHED: 16:18 13 August 2019 | UPDATED: 11:57 14 August 2019
The Bishop of St Albans has chipped into the controversy surrounding Wayne Rooney's new football t-shirt, claiming it promotes online gambling.
The 33-year-old former Manchester United player has signed an initial 18-month contract as Derby County FC's player-coach until the summer of 2021, and has agreed to wear a number 32 shirt promoting the club's sponsors, online casino 32Red.
The deal was announced by Mr Rooney and Derby County manager Phillip Cocu at a press conference at Pride Park Stadium last week. He is currently playing with Major League Soccer club DC United in the US.
Mr Rooney said: "I am delighted to be back here [in the UK] and I am looking forward to coming back in January and trying to help the team push forward and hopefully push for promotion."
But the Rt Rev Lord Bishop of St Albans, Dr Alan Smith, has criticised soccer role model Mr Rooney for promoting gambling.
He said: "Football needs to wake up to the fact their shirt sponsorship deals will have a negative impact on the welfare of many of their fans, particularly children.
"I was shocked recently to meet two families who no longer allow their children to watch football matches as they feel they are being primed to gamble in the future.
"It is not just the clubs that must take a stand. Players need to start using their considerable power to reject gambling's influence on football."
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His comments come amid a Church of England campaign to reduce the harm to society caused by gambling.
In March The House of Lords Liaison Committee announced a new special inquiry committee on the social and economic consequences of the gambling industry, which was welcomed by Dr Smith.
He added: "I hope Wayne Rooney will hear the public outcry which chimes with the Church of England's vote for restrictions on gambling advertising.
"He needs to start making decisions that have the interests of his fans, and not his bank balance, at their heart."
32Red general manager, Neil Banbury, said: "32Red is proud of its involvement in English football. We have created a new model of sponsorship that benefits both clubs and communities.
"This record-breaking sponsorship agreement with Derby is a significant step for us as we continue to reinvent the model of sponsorship to benefit both club and community.
"Earlier this year, we invested in Team Talk, a project with Derby County Community Trust that is tackling the issue of men's mental health right across Derby.
"Our partnership with Derby County Community Trust, and the extended relationship with Derby County Football Club, shows a new model for football club sponsorship is possible.
"32Red are leading the way in becoming a sponsor of choice for a club and its community."
Mr Rooney has been contacted for comment.