A group of campaigners set off on a 33 mile walk from Sheffield to Leeds today to raise awareness about gambling addiction and the harm it can cause.
The walk is dedicated to Kimberly Wadsworth who ended her own life due to gambling addiction in 2018. The campaign is called The Big Step and it aims to rid football of gambling adverts and sponsorships in accordance with Gambling with Lives.
James Grimes, the founder of The Big Step said: “We’d love for the government to act to end gambling sponsorships and adverts in football.”
Mr Grimes suffered a 12 year gambling addiction from the age of 16 which prompted him to set up The Big Step. He said: “I trusted football, but all of a sudden it kept telling me to bet.
“It caused depression, anxiety and debt, I’m fortunate to be here because I got to a point where I didn’t want to be here anymore.”
All of the campaigners that embarked on the walk have been harmed by gambling. Many of the walkers are bereaved family members who have lost someone due to gambling.
Charles Ritchie, the co-founder of Gambling with Lives, from Nether Edge was one of these family members. He lost his son in 2017 due to a gambling addiction. A lifelong Sheffield United fan, Jack Ritchie was just 24 when he took his own life.
Mr Ritchie said: “Jack started gambling when he was 17, he went to school with a fiver in his pocket and came home with £1,000. That changed Jack’s relationship with gambling forever.
“He gambled for seven years, never losing huge amounts of money. He always gambled within his means.
“What Jack’s story shows is that its not about the money, not about how much you lose, its about the effect on your mental health.”
He added: “It just shows that gambling addiction can happen and does to anyone.
“Jack was addicted within months or even weeks.”
The Big Step’s campaign walk started at Sheffield United FC and stopped off at Sheffield Wednesday, Rotherham United and Barnsley FC today. They will continue from Barnsley to Leeds tomorrow where their journey will end.