Premier League football clubs sponsored by betting firms have been accused of luring children into gambling.
Ten top-tier clubs feature a gambling firm as either their main shirt sponsor or sleeve sponsor.
Clubs are also using youth players – some as young as 15 – to promote gambling websites, in breach of advertising regulations.
The gambling operators deny deliberately targeting children, but some of the websites advertised host free casino-style slots games. Critics say these are the “number one risk factor” in developing a gambling problem in later life.
Football Association rules ban under-18 players from promoting gambling, but Newcastle United’s entire under-18s squad was pictured on the club’s website wearing strips with the Fun88 logo.
Fun88’s website, which features many images of Newcastle players, includes numerous free-to-play slots games that would appeal to children.
West Ham United was also criticised for its promotional images of 15-year-old academy players Joshua Okotcha and William Greenidge wearing club shirts bearing Betway’s logo.
Critics say that the sponsorship deals, alongside TV and hoarding advertisements, are ‘normalising’ gambling for young people.
GambleAware’s Chief Executive Marc Etches said: “For young people today, an adult activity that is gambling is being normalised. It most certainly is around sports. There is an awful lot of gambling product being pushed at young people.”
He previously said that his organisation was “very concerned about how increasingly children are being introduced to gambling via social media, video gaming and free-to-play casino games online”.
Conservative peer Lord Chadlington has said that the Government should severely restrict or ban all gambling advertising, with the first step being to ban such advertising during sports broadcasts.