Lewes FC director John Peel says the decision to promote Gambling with Lives on their men’s shirts is not an attack on Isthmian League sponsors BetVictor.

The Rooks are displaying the charity’s logo on their shirts until October in a bid to highlight the dangers of gambling.

Peel says the move is to get people discussing the bigger picture.

Peel told The Argus: “This isn’t a message about one particular company nor is it a statement that suggests all gambling should be banned.

“Our message is sponsorship of football by the gambling industry is at saturation point.

“We need to recognise the harm this has caused to young adults and children and ask ourselves whether the football world was better or worse when there was no gambling advertising in it and if we think it was better.

“What is the quickest and most effective route back to that state? The accepted standard of mostly self-regulation of the industry must be reviewed.”

But just how did Lewes get involved with Gambling with Lives?

Peel explained: “We are a community-owned club and we try to set a good example where we can.

“Given the published statistics of the number of people who gamble and those that are problem gamblers or at the risk of becoming a problem gambler, there are certainly owners of our club and people who attend our matches who are one of those.

“It’s important to us to recognise that and send a message of solidarity.

“The world of football has been completely overtaken by gambling, but it’s happened gradually and there has been very little fuss. We think now is a good time to put a message out there.

“Gambling with Lives are an ideal partner for us. We share their goals (providing support, raising awareness) and we have great respect for how they conduct themselves.”

With adverts from the likes of Sky Bet, Bet365 and Paddy Power being displayed in commercial breaks during games, Peel feels gambling and football have become too interlinked.

Peel added: “The evidence speaks for itself: half of the Premier League carry a gambling company on the front of its shirt.

“Many others have an official ‘gambling partner’. Championship teams play in the Sky Bet league and 17 of the 24 clubs in that division carry a gambling company on the front of their shirt.

“This isn’t limited to advertising on shirts or around the ground. Games such as FIFA, where young people can play as their favourite team, also carry this message.

“It’s normalising something that is not harmless, causing a hidden epidemic with catastrophic results for communities and families.”

Lewes, who broke ground with equal budgets for their men and women’s teams, hope other clubs will follow their lead.

Peel said: “We certainly hope other clubs take some kind of action. That’s isn’t necessarily promoting an organisation like Gambling for Lives and could be as straight forward as refusing to accept sponsorship from the gambling industry.

“Football clubs are essential community assets and there is a great responsibility placed upon the owners of those clubs to protect and work in the interests of their communities and promote the right messages.

“The most recent Gambling Commission study revealed over the past 12 months 39% of 11-16-year olds have spent their own money on gambling.

“Approximately 450,000 of 11-16-year olds in the UK gamble every week, spending around 60% of their pocket money on gambling. Around 150,000 11-16-year olds are already classified as “problem” or “at risk” gamblers.

“We in football have a collective duty of care to all fans, and particularly to young and vulnerable people. Can we really say hand on heart that we’re all living up to that duty of care right now?”