Kerfuffle Erupts Over UK Soccer Star Wayne Rooney 32Red Derby County Jersey

Posted on: August 8, 2019, 05:22h. 

Last updated on: August 8, 2019, 05:00h.

Former England soccer star Wayne Rooney’s transfer move from DC United to Derby County in the English Football League’s second tier, the Championship, comes laced with controversy.

Wayne Rooney
Wayne Rooney signs for Derby County in a deal that was partly financed by 32Red. The soccer star will be wearing the number 32 jersey, despite other numbers being available. (Image: Derby County)

At a time when questions are being asked of soccer’s reliance on betting companies, the deal takes gambling sponsorship to a whole new level.

Derby County has a jersey sponsorship deal with online casino 32Red and is just one of 16 teams out of 24 in the Championship that will sport gambling logos this season. Despite his advancing years — Rooney is 33 — England’s most prolific goal scorer of all time does not come cheap, and his reported £90,000 ($109,298) per week wages will make him the highest-paid Championship player ever.

In fact, it’s a move that would not have been possible without the intervention of 32Red, which is subsidizing the deal. The catch? Rooney will not only sport the 32Red logo on his chest, but also the number 32 on his back, despite other numbers being available.

Unfortunately, for the online casino, Derby play in white, not red, otherwise the synergy would have been complete.

Smart Business

For Derby Owner Mel Morris, this is just business — a creative way of bringing a big name to a modest team, and that’s good for the team and the fans.

We looked at the commercial opportunities this could create for us, and we realised this could be very smart business,” Morris told BBC Radio 5 Live. “So, in some ways, we’re seeing this as an opportunity to actually create money off the back of this deal, as opposed to net spend.”

But for some others it’s a bridge too far. At a time when the UK gambling industry has pledged to curb advertising around soccer, 32Red has gone a step further, inserting itself deeper into the management of the team and its finances, and essentially sponsoring not just one team but one player in particular.

For Rooney, who prefers to do his talking on the pitch, the number he wears “isn’t a big deal.” The important thing was to come and help the team, he said.

Rooney’s Past Demons

But the Daily Mail reports that Rooney’s wife Coleen is concerned about her husband’s association with 32Red in the light of the player’s much-publicized problems with gambling.

In his 2016 autobiography, My Story So Far, Rooney wrote, “I had an idea I was doing badly and did what most gamblers do. I chased my bets and tried to recoup my losses by putting on bigger sums.”

A year later, he appeared not to have learned his lesson when he blew through £500,000 ($607,215) in less than two hours during a gambling spree at Manchester’s 235 Casino.

Like many fading stars before him, Rooney had been expected to see out his retirement in the US with DC United, but he makes a surprising return to English soccer, reportedly because Coleen had become homesick.