After a lucrative Euros for betting operators and the restart of the Premier League season, the UK seems to be facing growing pressure from football supporters and clubs alike to follow in the steps of other countries and ban gambling sponsorships. For years now, gambling operators have provided lucrative sponsorship deals with UK football teams, enabling them to have their well-known gambling logos displayed across shirts, sideboards, TV adverts, whilst the sport itself benefitted from the financial gain. As pressure mounts, the question on many football fans lips is, will the UK soon follow other countries lead and ban betting sponsorships?
Without gambling and betting sponsorships, will football clubs genuinely suffer and struggle to find other viable sources of income?
At present, high profile gambling operators provide generous endorsements to many sporting events that punters consistently place bets on, such as football and horseracing. There is currently an ongoing review of the country’s gambling legislation, and The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) has warned that in a post-COVID 19 world, the sporting industry would suffer greatly if sponsorship deals were to become restricted. Betting bodies warn that tighter restrictions on gambling sponsorship deals could cost sporting events a great amount of money.
What Does The Industry Think?
As with every business sector across the nation, the economic impact of COVID 19 and the resulting lockdowns has had a catastrophic effect on the sporting industry. Members of the BGC are keen to point out that these sponsorship deals provide £40m a year to English Premier League teams, and a further £10m a year goes towards snooker and darts.
Michael Dugher, chief executive of BGC, stated earlier this year: “We welcome the Government’s imminent gambling review, which will examine the financial relationship between sports such as football, rugby league, horseracing, snooker and darts and betting operators. The industry’s importance to these popular national pastimes shows why it’s vital that the Government gets the balance right, and does not drive punters towards the illegal, online black market, who have no interest in supporting sport either at a grassroots or national level.”
Many in the sporting industry feel that COVID’s impact was enough to nearly completely wipe out some sporting events and that without these sponsorship deals, there is a concern about the future of sporting events.
In contrast, many believe that tightening the regulations surrounding gambling sponsorship is the appropriate thing to do.
Former footballer and gambler, Paul Pettigrew, speaks to school children about the dangers of betting with the hopes of educating children about the gambling industry and the potential dangers it holds. He recently asked a class of 15-year-olds how many gambling and betting firms they could name – he was startled to discover they named 13 different brands.
This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise really as David Vince, Chairman of Forest Green Rovers, reminds sporting fans: “It’s like gambling has taken over football. If you watch a game on TV you are inundated with ads – gambling logos are on almost half of Premier League shirts, and constantly flash up on pitch sideboards.”
What’s The Deal For Football Clubs?
A plethora of football clubs have recently come out in support of the gambling sponsorship ban, despite the knowledge that their teams will lose millions of pounds in funding. One of the most notable teams to show their support for the movement is the English Football League team Preston North End. The EFL team has shown their support by ending their sponsorship deal with leading gambling company 32Red, and stating that the team will no longer accept gambling sponsorship opportunities. This is a bold move from Preston North End as the EFL has strongly opposed the ban of these deals.
Last year, Birmingham City became the first football club in the world to be sponsored by a Cannabis-based product, CBD. The controversial deal was made between The Blues and CBD drinks firm, Green Monkey. The football club signed a 12-month contract with Green Monkey, making their drinks available throughout games on the grounds, as well as in hospitality areas. Green Monkey seized the opportunity to advertise its CBD product in a more mainstream manner compared to other CBD brands, citing that its drinks fall under the ‘health and wellbeing’ category.
The Blues aren’t the only Birmingham based football club to make controversial deals amidst the heated dispute. Aston Villa recently named China-based online betting firm OB Sports as their new sleeve sponsor for the 2021/22 season. The new sponsorship agreement sees OB Sports named as a principal partner of the Premier League outfit. Representatives of the club have commented that naming OB as one of their new key sponsors will bring the Aston Villa brand closer to their international fans over the next 12 months.
What Happens Next?
It seems that despite the support from British PM, Boris Johnson, the UK’s football teams and sporting fans are still divided over whether or not the country’s gambling legislation needs reforming. Gambling sponsorships provide millions of pounds that help to keep the sport alive and league events running smoothly, however, the ill effects of gambling addiction and exposure cannot be ignored. The PM is set to speak on the subject in late autumn, and it’s likely that as the time draws closer, more and more football clubs will make their opinions heard.
With the fact that online slots regulated in the UK have previously come under the crosshairs of regulators and betting sponsorships could be next – but what that will look like no one could say? It is probably reasonably unlikely that there will be a complete football sponsorship betting ban, but the chances are at some stage there will be a change in the work sponsorship for sporting events changes. This will change the world of sport for smaller teams, who will need to consider other ways to generate income and interest in the team – let’s see what the future brings!