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Beating The Odds: Club Sponsors and Gambling

As the 26/27 season approaches, significant changes are on the horizon for Premier League clubs. The mandate to display non-gambling related primary shirt sponsors is set to redefine the landscape of top-flight partnerships.

The long-standing bond between football and betting companies will undergo a transformation.

This relationship will undoubtedly be difficult to break with football earning a staggering £1.1bn gross for all betting companies between March 2021-22 (Forbes). Premier League shirt sponsor deals for clubs alone amounting to approximately £60m per year further emphasise the financial partnership.

However, the underlying complexities of this association must be addressed. The undeniable fact that 9% of the UK population is involved in gambling, with upwards of 245,000 individuals classified as having a ‘gambling problem,’ has prompted a much needed reassessment by the FA. The recent high-profile case of Brentford striker Ivan Toney should surely prompt further measures, especially surrounding player welfare, with a growing number of players sharing their struggles with gambling addiction.

Does this initiative reflect a crucial step towards acknowledging the potential impact of such sponsorships on society and aims to address the concerns surrounding gambling-related harm, or is it purely symbolic? As the sport takes a stand to promote responsible practices, is it ready to suffer the potential fiscal setbacks it might incur?

Expanding the ban on primary sponsors would likely have a ripple effect, impacting lower-tier leagues like the Championship. The English Football League (EFL) itself has had a partnership with SkyBet since 2013, but there is mounting pressure for the EFL not to renew this deal, given the concerns surrounding gambling sponsors. However, parting ways with lucrative partnerships like this may be challenging for broadcasters, as they rely on the revenue generated.

Looking for alternative revenue streams, some clubs have explored partnerships with crypto-currency brands, such as Plus500’s deal with Atletico Madrid and Stake.com’s recent partnership with Everton. However, this raises further questions as crypto investment by inexperienced investors is often associated with gambling and may not be the direction football clubs and fans want to take.

Another option is tourism-related sponsorships like Arsenal’s ‘Visit Rwanda’ and the previously planned deal between Tottenham Hotspur and South Africa. Additionally, the growing interest from North American owners may bring unforeseeable changes to investment strategies.

However, even if clubs shift to more respectable forms of advertising, the underlying issue remains and the framework gambling companies operate within stays roughly unchanged. The issue of gambling in football goes beyond just shirt sponsors. The pervasive exposure to gambling through advertising and logos during matches, which can appear hundreds of times, undoubtedly contributes to the problem. While pressuring the current gambling club partners to reassess their sponsors is a start, more extensive action would be required to address the issue effectively.

The constant coverage and promotion of gambling by celebrities like Peter Crouch and Ray Winston intensify the problem. Shirt sponsors themselves may in fact play a smaller role in engaging with gamblers compared to other advertising channels.

Though with the landscape of top flight football rapidly changing, clubs outside of the “top 6″ are struggling to attract the kind of investment needed to reduce the margins. Some might argue why should they give up their slice of the pie when broadcasters like Sky and BT don’t show any signs of slowing down?

So while the ban on gambling sponsors is a step in the right direction and forces clubs to rethink their sponsorship strategies, it may not signal real change. The option still remains to simply shift the logo to the sleeve. Fans may question whether these measures are merely surface-level or a true move towards reassessing the football-gambling dichotomy. Could the two ever be separated entirely, or do the Premier League plan to simply resume control over football sponsorships, without giving up the benefits?

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