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Gambling sponsorship in football – the state of play

Everton and Fulham are among the eight Premier League teams who have shirt sponsors linked to gambling (Zac Goodwin/PA)
Everton and Fulham are among the eight Premier League teams who have shirt sponsors linked to gambling (Zac Goodwin/PA)

Football’s commercial relationship with the betting industry has been examined as part of a review of the 2005 Gambling Act – but will it lead to significant change?

Here the PA news agency explores the key issues.

How crucial is the betting industry to football?

Rick Parry says gambling sponsorship is worth £40million a year to the EFL and its clubs
Rick Parry says gambling sponsorship is worth £40million a year to the EFL and its clubs (Mike Egerton/PA)

Eight out of 20 Premier League teams this season, and six out of 24 in the Championship, are sponsored by companies linked to gambling. Rick Parry, the chairman of the EFL whose own competitions are sponsored by Sky Bet, said last year that betting sponsorship was worth up to £40million a year to the league and its clubs.

Why do campaigners want an end to front-of-shirt sponsorship?

Carolyn Harris, the chair of the Gambling-Related Harms All-Party Parliamentary Group, told PA in 2020 she believes shirt sponsorship by betting companies “normalises” gambling for children, and that gambling sponsorship in sport in all its forms should – and would – be banned. The Big Step campaign has called for an end to all gambling advertising and sponsorship in football. The campaign is led by people harmed by gambling, both recovered gambling addicts and the bereaved families of those whose gambling addiction contributed to them taking their own lives.

What will happen? 

Rishi Sunak is the UK's third Prime Minister since September
Rishi Sunak is the UK’s third Prime Minister since September (Victoria Jones/PA)

It was reported in July that the Premier League was asking its clubs to voluntarily phase out front-of-shirt gambling sponsors in order to avert legislation.

A White Paper containing recommendations on reforms to the Gambling Act was reportedly close to publication when former Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced he would stand down, placing it on hold over the summer.

The turmoil within the Conservative Party – which has seen the leadership of the party change hands twice since September – has made it difficult to confidently predict which way this will go.

Could cryptocurrency companies fill the gap?

With the exception of Crawley, and a short-lived deal signed by Barnsley, clubs have not yet rushed headlong to embrace crypto companies as their saviours amid fears gambling sponsorship could be outlawed, though many already have established relationships with such companies and those offering fan tokens to supporters.

The Football Supporters’ Association wants the game’s authorities to introduce regulatory standards on cryptocurrency in football.

So where else could clubs look, with or without a ban on gambling sponsorship?

Tranmere chairman Mark Palios, pictured with his wife and vice-chairman Nicola Palios, says clubs must become more imaginative when seeking out suitable sponsorship deals
Tranmere chairman Mark Palios, pictured with his wife and vice-chairman Nicola Palios, says clubs must become more imaginative when seeking out suitable sponsorship deals (Nick Potts/PA)

Tranmere chairman Mark Palios says club commercial directors need to be more imaginative, and recognise the value of deals which reflect a club’s role within the local community.

Plymouth’s sponsorship model could also gain wider traction – where a brand, in Argyle’s case food manufacturers Ginsters, hands over the front-of-shirt space to a local charity.