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More than 20,000 people sign petition opposing Everton's new shirt sponsor

A club-record deal with Stake.com has produced a mixed response but the club insist their support for vulnerable people will continue through their charitable arm.

The outside of Goodison Park.
The outside of Goodison Park.
Image: PA

MORE THAN 20,000 people have signed a petition opposing Everton’s choice of a betting firm as their main shirt sponsor, with one recovering gambling addict fan accusing the Toffees of “selling the soul of the club”.

A club-record deal with Stake.com has produced a mixed response but Everton insist their support for vulnerable people will continue through their charitable arm, which sources stressed was a separate organisation, as their assistance with alcoholism did when the name of Chang, a Thai beer company, was on the shirts for 13 years.

When contacted by PA, the club pointed out there was nothing illegal in the deal – although the British Government is set to decide on whether to change gambling laws, including a ban of sponsorship in football, next month – and it was a purely commercial decision.

Everton’s new shirt sponsorship deal is the biggest in the club’s history and, with the Toffees having posted cumulative losses of more than £370million in the last three financial years and recently lost lucrative deals with Alisher Usmanov’s USM group due to Government sanctions against Russian billionaires, it will help the finances in the short term.

The offer from Stake.com is understood to have been far in excess of other potential partners.

Season ticket holder Ben Melvin, who lost hundreds of thousands of pounds over more than a decade, is firmly against it.

He accepts the Merseyside outfit have made a business decision but does not believe if reflects well on the club.

“When I heard Everton had signed a partnership with Stake.com it was a shock because it wasn’t something I saw as fitting well with Everton’s standards they set themselves,” he told the PA news agency.

“This jeopardises that and I don’t see how it can fit with the work they do with ‘Everton in the Community’ looking after vulnerable people.

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“A lot of people were saying ‘We need every penny we can get’ but that doesn’t involve selling the soul of the club for it.

“At a time when clubs are trying to step away from it and think it is not a good thing, Everton have taken a giant leap towards it for a big payday.”

Melvin, who helped the club’s charitable arm ‘Everton in the Community’ with an education session on gambling addiction only last year, began betting as a teenager but it reached a peak in his late 20s.

He says it affected him and his family – he has a wife and two children – as it consumed his whole life but he has now not had a bet for two and a half years and attends weekly Gamblers Anonymous meetings.

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