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Norwich City should hang their heads in shame over shirt sponsorship

PUBLISHED: 10:59 05 July 2019 | UPDATED: 12:05 05 July 2019

Emi Buendia   Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Emi Buendia Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Paul Chesterton

You know how, as a parent, you sometimes say "I love you, but I don't always like what you do"?

Norwich City have announced Dafabet as their new principal club partner Picture: Norwich City FCNorwich City have announced Dafabet as their new principal club partner Picture: Norwich City FC

That's me and Norwich City right now.

I'll always love the club: it's simply impossible to evict Fleck, Drinkell, Holt, Fox, Hoolahan, Watson, Woods, Pukki, Buendia et al from my heart.

In recent months, the fire of love has blazed brighter than ever, thanks to the beautiful football and stunning success under Daniel Farke. But right now, I'm deeply disappointed in the club.

Fanfare and back-slapping were to the fore as the Canaries revealed the next name to be emblazoned on their playing shirts.

The 2017 announcement of LeoVegas as Norwich City's shirt sponsor    Photo: Jason DawsonThe 2017 announcement of LeoVegas as Norwich City's shirt sponsor Photo: Jason Dawson

You didn't have to be a betting type to predict the nature of the name. Yes, another gambling firm: this time Dafabet (who?), which succeeds LeoVegas.

Chief operating officer Ben Kensell said: "It's an incredible deal and we're really proud of the fact that we've got a shirt sponsor that's in line with other Premier League deals at other football clubs.

"We're really punching above our weight commercially now, I'm proud of that and proud of the team that we've got internally that's been working hard to try and grow those revenue streams."

Proud, proud and proud. These are words that jar with me, and which should not be used in association with a deal that I believe should have the City hierarchy hanging their heads in shame.

Here are a few Gambling Commission statistics:

■ More than 2m in UK are problem gamblers or at risk of addiction

■ There are an estimated 430,000 gambling addicts in the UK

■ The number of children classed as having a gambling problem has quadrupled to more than 50,000 in two years

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■ A study suggests that 450,000 children aged 11 to 16 bet regularly, more than those who have taken drugs, smoked or drunk alcohol.

Gambling addiction can lead to poor mental health, crime, relationship and family breakdown, homelessness and so much more. It is pernicious: it ruins lives.

So what exactly is there for Norwich City to be "proud" of in linking up with another gambling firm and emblazoning its name on the shirts of players and fans?

Oh, of course, the money. Dafabet is handing over more than double City's previous shirt sponsorship record - which means it knows the deal will entice more people to have a flutter.

When I tweeted my anger about the deal, some fans were at pains to point out the extra cash could pay for "another Pukki, Buendia or Zimmermann".

That's ok, then. Never mind the human cost of gambling addiction, as long as it helps make the team better.

First up, I think it's erroneous, because the vast sum of money the Canaries are getting for being in the Premier League is more than enough for bargain hunter Stuart Webber to assemble a squad to stay there.

Secondly, I think football clubs have a social and moral responsibility.

Norwich City FC is a club with tens of thousands of members of all ages, and many of the fans look up to the players as role models and the club as an influencer.

Dafabet's association with our heroes WILL tempt people to have a flutter. That's ok, but a flutter can develop into an addiction, and I don't think my football club should have a part in that.

Why not take a less lucrative deal? It's not so much money, but it would come with a clear conscience and no trail of broken lives.

Or - even better - how about following the Barcelona lead and putting a charity on the City shirts? A local charity would see a huge uplift in donations and its ability to help the needy.

Instead, Norwich City have followed the depressing path trodden by so many other football clubs, of advertising a product that can ruin lives and families.

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