At a point in time when social distancing regulations are prohibiting supporters from purchasing tickets and attending matches in person, the U.K. government is reviewing whether it will prohibit online betting sites from serving as shirt sponsors for English football clubs.
Several of the clubs in the English Premier League currently enjoy very profitable relationships with some of the best sport betting sites operating in the country. In many cases, these promotional deals include shirt sponsorship. Chairs of EPL clubs are warning that cutting off this line of revenue at a time when so many other traditional money-earning avenues are closed to the team by the pandemic could prove devastating to their bottom line.
A Big-Money Gamble
With the explosion of online betting in Britain, last year the government called for a review of the 2005 Gambling Act. The purpose set out for this review of the laws surrounding betting was in order to update legislation to adapt to the digital age. According to the Daily Mail, punters lost £14.4 billion betting on sports in 2019.
“Whilst millions gamble responsibly, the Gambling Act is an analoglue law in a digital age,” Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Oliver Dowden told the Daily Mail. “From an era of having a flutter in a high street bookmaker, casino, racecourse or seaside pier, the industry has evolved at breakneck speed.
“This comprehensive review will ensure we are tackling problem gambling in all its forms to protect children and vulnerable people. It will also help those who enjoy placing a bet to do so safely.”
Early in 2020, a House of Lords Select Committee on gambling made the recommendation to ban shirt sponsorship of football clubs by 2023. The committee also put forth that no advertising of gambling should be present in the vicinity of any sports grounds or venues.
An All-Party Parliamentary Group on Gambling-Related Harm is also favoring the removal of shirt sponsorship by online betting sites. “I would very much welcome a ban on front of shirt advertising, any reduction in sports advertising or marketing or promotion is a step in the right direction,” Welsh Labour Party MP Carolyn Harris, the chairwoman of the group, told the Mail Online.
The Cost Of Abstaining
Estimates are that an across the board ban of sports betting sites from sponsorship of English football would cost Premier League clubs £110 million.
“The association between football and the gambling sector is long-standing and the League firmly believes a collaborative, evidence-based approach to preventing gambling harms that is also sympathetic to the economic needs of sport will be of much greater benefit than the blunt instrument of blanket bans,” the EFL said in a statement.
Rick Perry, EFL chairman, described any decision to prohibit betting sponsorship of club’s in the current uncertain economic conditions as potentially “catastrophic.”
“The timing couldn’t be worse,” Perry told Sportsmail. “The situation facing clubs at the moment is pretty dire. The last thing we need at the moment is restrictions on other valuable sources of income because they can’t be just switched overnight.”
Currently, 10 of the 20 EPL clubs utilize a sports betting site as their shirt sponsor. This list includes West Ham United (Betway), Crystal Palace (ManBetX), Burnley (LoveBet), Everton (SportPesa), Newcastle United (Fun88), Southampton (Sportsbet.io), Aston Villa (W88), Leeds United (SBOTOP), Wolverhampton Wanderers (ManBetX) and Fulham (BetVictor).
Richard Masters, chief executive of the EPL, believes that it should be left up to the individual clubs to determine whether they want to accept sponsorship from a betting site. “I think this area does need stronger governance, particularly to protect the vulnerable,” Masters told the Guardian. “I don’t think the answer coming out at the end of it should be that football clubs shouldn’t have shirts sponsored by gambling companies, but . . . we will certainly cooperate with the review.”
Interested parties have until March 31 to provide evidence that could help inform prior to any changes being made to the Act.
Originally published by fcbusiness.