EPIC Pro Sport Advisory Board welcomes hat-trick of new members

6 April 2023

(PRESS RELEASE) -- The EPIC Risk Management Pro Sport Advisory Board (PSAB) expanded to welcome three new members from as many countries to provide expert insight into gambling-related harm in their sport.

The global collective of experts across elite sports, and wider stakeholders, is bringing in new expertise to build on the recent release of the Gambling Harm in Sport Review, a white paper released by EPIC Risk Management based on input from the PSAB and offering recommendations to sporting institutions on how best to negate gambling-related harm.

Bringing new insight and ideas to the table are two members with extensive experience in football and a third with a stellar background in ice hockey’s NHL, as American Rachael Jankowsky (head of player care and well-being, Chicago Fire FC), Canada-based Dr. Meg Popovic (co-founder and chief learning officer, NextPlayU) and Englishman Mike Riley (managing director of Professional Game Match Officials Limited) are added to the board to help comprise a new-look ten-person team for 2023.

Jankowsky is a clinical psychotherapist who works as head of player care and well-being at iconic MLS franchise Chicago Fire. Having seen the benefit of EPIC’s education delivery to professional athletes first hand, she had no hesitation in accepting an offer to become a PSAB member.
“The approach that EPIC has taken around problem gambling in the sports world is unprecedented in its relevance, thoroughness, and professional character,” said Jankowsky. “There is a fantastic balance between EPIC’s foundation of evidence-based research and their use of a lived-experience, qualitative approach to education. As gaming and gambling become more prevalent and accessible in the United States, equipping athletes with knowledge and building an awareness around the potential harm of these activities is key in taking a proactive approach to player care. I’m glad to participate in the Pro Sport Advisory Board as we work to further these initiatives and increase the depth and breadth of the impact that EPIC can have in the lives of pro athletes.”

Dr. Popovic is currently the co-founder and chief learning officer at NextPlayU, a career accelerator and community for former NCAA, Olympic, and pro athletes. Prior to this venture, she worked with the Toronto Maple Leaf Hockey Club (NHL) for five seasons as the director of wellbeing and performance, and has also outlined the reasons why she was keen to be part of what the PSAB strives to achieve.

“I believe that EPIC has stepped into the global sporting stage to solve one of the greatest, silent, complex challenges within professional sport and doing so with an innovative, fearless team approach that shift the way coaches, clubs, and industry act and collaborate,” said Dr. Popovic. “I have huge respect for the individuals involved, as their personal character, lived experiences, and professional track records demonstrate capability and care for people and organizations. It is an honor to work with leaders like Ben [McGregor, EPIC’s Director of Sports Partnerships] and John [Millington, Senior Director at EPIC Risk Management] and the PSAB to envision best practices, communication strategy, and educational delivery methods. The magnitude and seriousness of this problem in sport is huge and I believe with my whole heart that EPIC is bringing the world’s best to reduce harm and elevate care for the lives of those in sport.”

Riley is the managing director of Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL), which oversees the officiating of English professional football fixtures, and formerly a leading Premier League and FIFA referee. He explains how his contribution will be able to provide a valuable alternative perspective on behalf of those tasked with overseeing sporting integrity.

“Integrity is at the very heart of officiating in any sport and with a lifelong involvement in officiating and the development of match officials across a number of sports, I am very keen to help support the exciting and important work of the Pro Sport Advisory Board,” said Riley. “EPIC’s mission to promote safer gambling, to provide education and training and to work with key stakeholders to lead effective governance are key pillars in safeguarding the integrity in elite sport. I have seen at first hand the Board’s expertise, experience and passion for recognizing the dangers of gambling-related harm and for delivering strategies to address this to protect participants and fans. I hope that my contribution to the Board will recognize the important role that match officials play in all elite sports and ensure that EPICs work encompasses their specific needs as we strive to safeguard sporting integrity.”

Moving on after providing vital input to the board’s first year are Michelle Evans, who has recently been appointed as EPIC’s senior sports partnerships manager, and Cam Adair, founder of Game Quitters, who played a key role in the Pro Sport Advisory Board as founder members, including their contributions to the Gambling Harm Prevention in Sport Review white paper, which was unveiled in February at Wembley Stadium to an audience of leading figures from the sports industry.

Ben McGregor, director of sports partnerships at EPIC Risk Management, has hailed their contribution and warmly welcomed the new members.

“We are hugely grateful to all the members of the Pro Sport Advisory Board for the time, expertise and knowledge they impart to ensure that the Board continues its mission of safeguarding professional sports and esports stars from the risk of gaming and gambling harm,” said McGregor. “Our sincere thanks go to Cam and Michelle for the impetus that they have helped to provide and look forward to maintaining a professional relationship with both of them to continue to minimize gambling-related harm, not least because Michelle now joins the EPIC team and we work with Cam’s organization INTENTA to provide educational resources for teenage audiences. The new faces coming in to take their places on the Board provide us with a truly global reach, as three major sporting markets are represented by our newly-inaugurated members.”

“Mike Riley is a household name in UK sports, thanks to the extended contribution he has made to the football world, and we look forward to him being able to provide a different take on how those connected to the integrity of sport can also be impacted by the effects of gambling harm.

“Meg and Rachael continue to support EPIC’s mission and values, particularly in the North American market, and we look forward to their considerable knowledge around mental health, wellbeing and player care making a notable impact on the next steps taken by the Pro Sport Advisory Board in the years ahead.”

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