Families who have lost loved ones through gambling addiction have marched from Manchester to Liverpool via the cities’ famous football clubs to call for reform within the game.
Many of the 70 walkers wore yellow shirts with the figure 409 on their backs to mark the number of addicts, who commit suicide each year.
Their two-day journey took them from Manchester City’s Etihad stadium, to Manchester United’s Old Trafford ground, Everton’s Goodison Park and Liverpool’s Anfield home venue.
Everton fan and former gambling addict Ben Melvin, 35, handed over a 30,000-plus name petition at Goodison Park on Saturday objecting to the club accepting online casino Stake.com as their main shirt sponsor this summer.
The Everton season ticket holder, from Ellesmere Port in Cheshire, said: “Gambling adverts are too overwhelming in football and something needs to stop it but this (march) has also been in memory of people.
“The level of advertising I will be subjected to will be obscene and it is not just me, it will be children and vulnerable people.”
Mr Melvin, who has been recovering from his addiction for five years and debt-free for two-and-a-half years, warned that gambling could “eventually take everything” and people need to be made aware of the risks.
He added: “It is everybody’s choice (about whether to sign up) but I do not think we should be subjected to it constantly.”
The walkers included families who have lost loved ones to gambling-related suicide. The walk was in memory of Liverpool fan Ryan Myers, who took his own life in 2014 when he was 27 after becoming addicted to gambling.
Ryan’s father John Myers said: “Ryan was a bubbly, happy lad. Our world fell apart when we he died.
“The adverts played a massive role in his addiction – they wouldn’t let him break free and didn’t warn him about the dangers. Instead, they kept telling him gambling was fun and safe.
“Unless the adverts are going to show what can happen to families – the funerals and the heartbreak – then they’ve got to go.”
The walk is the latest event organised by The Big Step, a campaign to end all gambling advertising in football which now has the support of 27 clubs in the UK and Ireland.
A Government White Paper is set to be published in the coming weeks as part of a review of gambling legislation.