There was a mixed reaction from fans early on Thursday morning as a new sponsor is named for leagues at Step 3 and 4 level of English football.
It was last season that the Northern Premier League, Southern League and Isthmian League were sponsored by BetVictor in a two-year sponsorship deal, starting from the 2019/20 campaign.
That deal however came to an end, and since then, ‘Pitching In’ have replaced them, but not everyone is pleased with the latest news.
Pitching In is a new Grassroots Sports Investment Programme that been launched by GVC, the multi-national sports-betting and gaming group which owns Ladbrokes and Coral.
And it’s the gambling ties that have got any supporters talking on social media, some are annoyed, and others hope this could be a good thing for clubs.
England footballing legend Stuart Pearce, who played for Wealdstone FC for five years at the start of his long and illustrious career, has been appointed as the official Pitching In ambassador.
Stuart Pearce says: “I am delighted to be taking up the role of ambassador for Pitching In, as I’m passionate about the importance of investing in grassroots sports and in developing young talent. I started out playing for Wealdstone FC before joining Coventry City so I understand how important funding is to the non-league game. Grassroots football is facing huge challenges at the moment and many clubs are struggling to stay afloat. GVC’s Pitching In investment will help make a big difference to hundreds of clubs and thousands of players across the country.”
The Northern Premier League stated in an article: “Pitching In has been set up with the objective of supporting, protecting and encouraging grassroots sports in the UK through a range of initiatives.
“In addition to financial support, a key focus of the partnership will be to facilitate and encourage members of the community to become volunteers, and do some pitching in of their own. A Pitching In volunteering scheme will be established to link GVC’s Ladbrokes and Coral shop colleagues with their local clubs.
“In the weeks ahead Pitching In and the Trident Leagues will be announcing further initiatives to provide financial support and opportunities for all the 226 clubs (rising to 240 in 2021).
“For more information on Pitching In please visit www.gvc-plc.com/pitchingin”
Commenting on the launch of Pitching In and the Trident Leagues partnership, Shay Segev, CEO of GVC Holdings said: “In a world where local and grassroots sports are under increasing financial pressure, we believe our Pitching In Investment Programme will play a pivotal role in supporting the next generation of British sporting heroes. Today’s partnership announcement with The Trident Leagues is a hugely positive step in this direction and underlines our commitment to support both grassroots sport, and the communities in which we operate.”
In a joint statement, the three leagues – Nick Robinson (chairman, Isthmian), Mark Harris (chairman, Northern Premier) and Anthony Hughes (vice chairman, Southern League) warmly welcomed their new partners.
“Community is at the heart of non-league football, so the Pitching In partnership is a perfect fit for us. GVC’s commitment to grassroots sport is clear from their previous work, and this investment shows huge belief in the importance of grassroots sport.”
There was widespread anger across Twitter and Facebook last summer when the deal was announced for BetVictor to sponsor the leagues.
All 228 clubs taking part in Step 3 and 4 divisions carried the BetVictor logo on their shirt sleeves.
Fans took to slam the decision calling it shameful and stating that there is no thought for players struggling, caught up with the difficulties of gambling and the mental health problems.
Fast forward to today and there has been mixed fan reaction as a new sponsor is named for Step 3 and 4 leagues…
I’d prefer a non gambling sponsor, but in the current environment beggars can’t be choosers. Hopefully some cash for the clubs as opposed to BetVictors donation to league running costs.
— The Chiel (@JeffChiel) September 2, 2020
Cue the moaning and faux outrage (again) when people realise this company is connected to Ladbrokes Coral.
— Paul Butler ?? (@PB1872) September 2, 2020
‘We’re on our way, we’re on our way, to the Pitching In Prem, We’re on our way.”??
— Mitchell Radford (@RadfordReports1) September 2, 2020
The northern premier will always be the unibond league to me
— christopher holmes (@mrcrh11) September 2, 2020
— NPL Memes (@MemeStashNPL) September 2, 2020
“The Pitching In Northern Premier League” ?
See how many silly rules about imagery and age gate stipulations are now enforced on club’s websites… ⏳ https://t.co/Z4mNVNKpjY
— UP THE MARINERS! #UTM (@UTM_Mariners) September 3, 2020
There won’t be any betting advertising James. Not a logo, not a mention, not a link, no age gating, no odds, no nothing!
— The Pitching In Isthmian League (@IsthmianLeague) September 3, 2020
Fully behind getting betting companies as sponsors banned. But does this show there’s another way should a ban come. Interested to see how the partnership develops
— Premier League to Non League (@PL2NL) September 3, 2020
Looking forward to some of the €3.6billion yearly revenue of the Pitching In oversight company being filtered into non league.
0.0001% of this would keep a club going for a whole season. pic.twitter.com/NIK8WJQvFP
— FootiePrint & Digital – Match Programme Solutions (@FootiePrint) September 3, 2020