Football fans have been warned the first World Cup to be held outside the summer months could spark a rise in excessive gambling.
Charity GambleAware and the Football Supporters Association (FSA) have both raised the alarm over the Qatar tournament, which gets underway on Sunday.
“This upcoming tournament is very different for many reasons and one of those is the way we’ll watch it as supporters back home,” said Malcolm Clarke, FSA chair.
“While most summer tournaments see millions of fans watching at outdoor events and in beer gardens, that won’t be the case for Qatar 2022.
“With so much brilliant football on TV, supporters will spend a lot of time watching games from the comfort of their own sofa – and that’s when the temptation to gamble impulsively can kick in for some.”
Clarke suggested practical steps such as deleting apps or setting bet limits to prevent excessive gambling.
“As the cost of living crisis bites and people feel the pinch in the run-up to Christmas, this could create a ‘perfect storm’ where fans resort to gambling as a way to cope,” said Zoë Osmond, chief executive of GambleAware. This can have the opposite effect, both financially and in terms of mental health.”
In Britain, 28% of football fans have declared feeling anxious about the amount of money they could lose gambling during the World Cup, in a survey published by market research agency Opinium.
Across the English Channel, 96% of French fans plan on viewing World Cup games from their homes, with a further 36% claiming they will gamble, according to a report commissioned by France’s National Gaming Authority.
“We are not seeking to demonise sports betting but warning young people of the risks of excessive gambling – so that they can understand when sports gambling veers into an off-side,” said Isabelle Falque-Pierrotin, president of the authority.