Everton FC has told its sponsor Stake.com to stop using its imagery in an international promotion offering a $10 free bet to anyone who wagers $5,000 in the space of a week.

Football fans and campaign groups had criticised the marketing scheme and questioned Everton’s apparent involvement.

The offer was targeted at an international audience and was visible – but not available – to customers with a UK internet address. It was linked to the team’s results and used club branding.

Everton Road to Glory Cash Drops 💰

Here’s the first of two bonus drops thanks to @Everton‘s win in the #CarabaoCup 🤑

Code: evertonrtg1
Value: $10
Requirements: $5,000 wagered in the last 7 days
Total Drop Limit: $25,000

Under settings, go to offers & redeem the bonus drop 💧 pic.twitter.com/A85W2LWIeT

— Stake.com (@Stake) August 24, 2022

The Guardian understands that Everton, whose chief executive, Denise Barrett-Baxendale, said in 2020 that “in an ideal world” the club would not have a gambling company sponsoring its shirts, was not aware of the promotion before it was launched.

The club is now understood to have told Stake.com not to use pictures of its players or shirts for the promotion, after the Guardian’s enquiries.

The government has toyed with banning betting logos on football shirts as part of a landmark review of gambling laws. However, the final decision has been left in the hands of clubs, who delayed a vote on a voluntary ban, after the Tory leadership contest caused the gambling review to be postponed.

In the meantime, Stake.com, which also sponsors Watford FC, has stepped up its marketing, including a “Road to Glory” social media campaign, contingent on the performance of the Everton team, who sit 18th in the Premier League table.

Stake.com offered a $10 free bet for anyone who has wagered $5,000 in the past week, prompting a furious reaction from fans, campaigners and the public.

Ben Melvin, a recovering gambling addict and lifelong Everton fan who goes to home and away games, had already started a petition calling on Everton to ditch Stake.com as a sponsor. It has garnered nearly 40,000 signatures, a similar number to the capacity of the club’s stadium, Goodison Park.

“Everton and their fans have a close relationship with each other and they’ve been known for doing the right thing and looking after people,” Melvin said. “They do some brilliant work and they have to be commended for that.”

But he said he felt let down by the club’s decision to go into partnership with Stake.com. “They’ve just took the money and run,” he said. “They’ve refused to say anything about it and it seems like they’re distancing themselves from the standards they’ve set. Gambling ads within football played a massive part in how I gambled.”

Stake.com offers different services and promotions in different countries, owing to the variety of regulatory systems governing gambling. Melvin said it didn’t matter where the promotion was offered. “They could be in any part of the world and suffering the same as someone living next door to me,” he said. “You’ve got a massive problem if you’re betting that much in a week.”

Stake.com did not return requests for comment.

Tom Fleming, the communications manager at Gambling With Lives, which was set up by family members bereaved by gambling-related suicide, said: “Everton’s main club sponsor is encouraging fans to gamble $5,000 in a week – never accept that this is normal or safe. There are now over 30,000 Evertonians against this partnership. It’s time the club listened to its own fans and ended it now.”

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