28/03/2012

Football Fans Call On Clubs To Stop Running Payday Loan Adverts

Fans of 18 football clubs have come together to petition their respective clubs to stop carrying advertising by payday loan company Wonga on their websites.

The group, lead by Northampton Town supporter Bob Ward and grandson Dan, are also encourage fans of more than 60 other clubs to do the same.

In a letter published in the Guardian, the football fans argue that while payday lenders are not conducting illegal business, "that is only because there are at present few if any laws restricting their activities in UK. Their practices would not be allowed in most other European countries, or in most of the USA."

The fans are asking their clubs to seek sources of advertising revenue other "than earning money from the dubious activities of Wonga.com", adding: "If they really wish to advertise short-term loans for their fans in these difficult financial times, then perhaps it would be better to give publicity to their local credit unions."

Wonga is the highest profile of about 200 firms offering short-term, high cost loans, which are the subject of an ongoing investigation by the Office of Fair Trading. Payday lenders have attracted criticism from MPs and consumer groups for targeting low-income customers who often end up rolling over their borrowing and accruing huge charges.

Ward, whose aluminium manufacturing company TMCCL sponsors a display board at Northampton's Sixfields stadium, initially raised the issue of Wonga advertising with his own club. He was told that while the club can sell adverts to local companies, the Football League also sells network-wide advertising space to national and international companies.

The football clubs use a website platform supplied by the Football League through its internet subsidiary Football League Interactive.

"Individual clubs can request to have certain adverts blocked,” Ward said, “however the club would then lose its share of the revenue raised from the advert."

Gareth Willsher, media manager for Northampton Town, said clubs relied on the Football League's judgement to ensure that a company or advert is appropriate to appear on its members' websites. But he added: "We have asked Football League Interactive how much it would cost the club not to carry the adverts. When I get that information I will present it to the chairman."

(H)

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