The Big Step are hoping to make an impact on Scottish football as they aim to raise awareness of their bid to boot out gambling sponsors from the game.
From February 11–13, more than 30 people harmed by gambling will walk from Edinburgh to Glasgow, visiting multiple football clubs along the way – with and without gambling partners, – including Celtic, Hamilton, Motherwell and Rangers.
Their campaign goal is simple: they want an end to all gambling advertising and sponsorship in football.
The group will meet with MPs, MSPs and football clubs along the way. They will set off from Edinburgh on Friday and walk to capital clubs Edinburgh City, Spartans, Hibs and Hearts, before calling in at Livingston and Motherwell on Saturday.
Sunday’s walk continues to Glasgow via Hamilton’s New Douglas Park, where it will culminate in visits to Celtic, Partick Thistle, and Rangers, before ending at Hampden Park.
It’s not the first time the group has ventured into Scotland. Last June, a group of people harmed by gambling walked all the way from Scotland to London’s Wembley stadium.
James Grimes, founder of The Big Step, says all the work is completed by people with lived experience of the harms gambling can cause.
He said: “We are completely led, formed and run by people impacted by gambling, indirectly or directly.
“I myself am in recovery from gambling. I had a 12-year addiction and most of our team are recovering gamblers. Initially, the idea was to walk to clubs with gambling sponsors on their shirts.
“That was in 2019. Three years later, it’s a full-time campaign. The walking events are so important as I think it’s important to be visible so people can see what you do.
“We try and encourage clubs to join our campaign and 18 clubs did. We also campaign to government and there’s currently a gambling review going on. It’s such an important time, a once in a generation opportunity to get what we want.”
While acknowledging that Scottish football does a better job than some leagues in eradicating gambling sponsors, James says much work is still to be completed.
I added: “It’s not just shirt sponsorships. Celtic and Rangers are the most prominent with gambling sponsors, but some clubs have gambling partners.
“Some will have adverts around the pitch and when you watch on TV there will be adverts for gambling. It’s everywhere, but Scotland is better than England. It’s moved away slightly.
“But one advert can be someone’s gateway into gambling addiction, like me. That’s why for me, there is no need to promote an addictive product in front of young fans.
“There are a couple of clubs who have remained clear of gambling sponsors, Hearts and Motherwell coming to mind. I feel bigger football clubs won’t commit until the rest do.
“We need to build a movement from the bottom. To have a club at the highest level in Scotland would be a massive acceptance of the problem of gambling. We hope the walk can help one of these clubs take the big step.”
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.