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Wigan Athletic FC team up with charity to champion player well-being

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London, 22 August 2023: Wigan Athletic FC have joined forces with an award-winning charity to help safeguard their youth players against harms related to video gaming and gambling.

The collaboration between the football club and Ygam was cemented last season, when the charity provided specialist training and resources to the clubs’ staff, players, and parents. Research from the Gambling Commission reveals that 31% of 11- to 16-year-olds spent their own money on gambling in the last twelve months. Academy staff recognised the need for better education and training about gaming and gambling harms, reinforcing the club’s commitment to protecting the wellbeing of their young players and fans.

In December 2022, members of Wigan Athletic FC’s staff team received workshops from Ygam to mark the FIFA World Cup. The session included information on gambling in football, prevalence of gambling advertising, risks associated to gambling, and the prevalence of betting and gambling during the previous World Cup, providing a relevant focal point.

The club continued its relationship with the charity as youth players from their Under 13s, Under 14s and Under 15s teams enrolled in a workshop as part of the Young People’s Gambling Harm Prevention Programme. This programme is the largest of its kind and delivers evidence-based education, training, and support to young people across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, as well as collaborating with other organisations across Scotland.

Ygam has also delivered part of the League Football Education (LFE) Programme to Wigan Athletic FC’s apprentices at U18’s level. The LFE programme covers a range of subjects related to health and well-being. Ygam led a safeguarding session on video gaming harms, educating young players on how to establish a healthy balance in a digital world. Research from OnSide Youth revealed that 94% of young people play video games most days. 41% of boys said video gaming was their most time-consuming leisure activity.

Follow-up surveys were conducted by an independent evaluator two months after the completion of the training. The youth players reported that they were actively gaming less or choosing to spend more time with family because of the education.

Former Premier League footballer and mental health campaigner, Marvin Sordell, became a Ygam ambassador in 2020. He has previously raised concerns about the influence of gaming and gambling amongst young footballers. He told the MailOnline “Gambling is very much ingrained in the culture of football like a lot of other things. I played with players who would be on their phones checking scores and bets from the minute they get in in the morning to the minute they leave training. I think how that has probably changed with the younger generations is that a lot of it is now geared towards gaming.”

Lee Wood, Wigan FC’s Player Care Manager, said: “As a Player Care Team, we recognised the need for educational workshops on this important topic in the lives of our young players, and we quickly identified Ygam as a leader in this sector. Ygam delivered an online parent workshop, consisting of nearly 50 attendees, which aimed to educate our ‘Coaches at Home’, who in turn will be supporting their children and encouraging a healthier relationship with gaming.

“Players, parents, and staff all spoke glowingly of the Ygam workshops and the impact they had on their lives. As a direct result, we will be welcoming Ygam back for the 2023-2024 Season.”

Sacha Kent, Programme Lead for Education, Sports, and Youth at Ygam, said: “We are thrilled with the positive feedback received from players, parents, and coaches who participated in Ygam’s training sessions for Wigan Athletic FC. By providing a deeper understanding of the risks associated with gaming and gambling, we have equipped them all with the knowledge they need to help young people lead safer and more informed digital lives.

“The overwhelmingly positive response from participants highlights the effectiveness and educational value of the training and we look forward to continuing our collaboration with Wigan Athletic FC for the upcoming season.”

Ygam will offer guidance on developing additional resources and Wigan Athletic FC has expressed commitment to embed Ygam’s training and materials into the club’s programming.

For more information about Ygam and our portfolio of education programmes, please email training@ygam.org.

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