While Wayne Rooney has been rumoured to be heading into retirement for a few years now, the Liverpool-born striker has dominated the headlines over the past week, having signed for Derby County in what is being called a sensational return to English football.
Making the move back from America, where he currently plays for DC United, Rooney will assume a ‘player-coach’ role under the watchful eye of Phillip Cocu.
Though football fans and clubs were thrilled to welcome back England’s all-time top goalscorer, many betting lawmakers were not. This is due to both Rooney’s and Derby County’s quite evident relationship with bookmakers, 32Red.
One of the conditions of the sponsorship deal with the club is that Rooney will wear the number 32; a move that has been branded ‘cheap’ and ‘crass’ by responsible gambling organisations. Criticised for making Rooney a ‘betting sponsorship on legs’, most believe he should have been given 7, 12, 13, 15 or 18, previous numbers worn by the player which are all vacant.
Seeing the betting firm come under fire, Derby owner, Mel Morris, was eager to jump to their defence and to the defence of the collaboration in general. Morris said he was keen to "leverage Wayne’s involvement" in order to get the deal over the line.
He added: "Obviously, the commercial opportunities this creates are widespread and significant."
One individual who believes this to be a huge step backwards for safe gambling is Richard Caborn.
Carborn is a former minister; one that contributed to the formation of the Gambling Act. Having encouraged backing from many betting firms and devising partnerships that resulted in millions of pounds invested in responsible gambling, this is somebody you certainly want the seal of approval from.
"It's not very clever this - it all seems a bit crass," he told the Daily Telegraph.
"Wayne Rooney, who has got kids himself, should perhaps know this is not the brightest. The gambling companies need to be doing themselves favours at the moment, but this is not going to go down well with football authorities or the Government" he continued.
But, we doubt this is any skin off of Rooney’s nose who will start the next phase of his career earning an attractive £100,000 a week. This is 5 times as much as the average player earns in the Premier League.
When asked about the number and the strong betting connection he will be sporting on the pitch, Rooney was far from phased.
"To be honest, the number that I wear is not a big deal. "I’ve worn many numbers throughout my career, Nos 18, 8, 9, 10, 23, now 32, for me, the important thing was to come back and help the team, the number isn’t a big deal whatever it is" he said.
Though this is not the first time we have seen a club-betting site partnership, it is a far cry from where the industry is heading. Paddy Power, for instance, are currently promoting their rather successful ‘Save Our Shirts’ campaign, consciously ‘unsponsoring’ clubs to limit betting adverts being exposed to problem gamblers, children and vulnerable individuals.
Let us know what you think. Is this a cheap move from 32Red?