Sport Sponsorships

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Bradley Tucker

Currently studying Politics at the University of Essex

Labour Party supporter

Firmly believes in Richard Howitt's ideas to improve working conditions for people with disabilities

Betting Companies To Be Banned From Sport Sponsorships?

The Labour Party has promised to tackle what it has termed the Hidden Epidemic of gambling addiction and wants to protect children from exposure to betting at an early age by barring betting firms sponsoring football shirts.

Premier League shirt sponsorship for the 2017/18 season has earned the clubs £280m, with the value trebling in just seven years with a total that is more than double the fees earned by clubs in the Bundesliga. Previously shirt sponsorship was the domain of beer companies, but now nine Premier League clubs are tied to betting companies and the industry has spend £47.3m on shirt deals.

This is all the more surprising as these gambling company deals have been signed just one month after the Football Association terminated an annual £4m contract with Ladbrokes because of a series of high-profile betting controversies in the sport, and the FA have agreed they will no longer have a sponsorship deal with any betting company.

Premier League Sponsors

The 2017/18 clubs and their sponsors name and headquarters, together with their sponsorship figure for the season are:

  • West Ham: Betway, Malta £10m
  • Everton: SportPesa. Kenya £9.6m
  • Crystal Palace: ManBetX, Philippines £6.5m
  • Newcastle: Fun88, China £6m
  • Swansea: leTou, China £4.5m
  • Bournemouth: M88, Gibraltar £3.5m
  • Stoke City: Bet365, UK
  • Burnley: Dafabet, Philippines £2.5m
  • Huddersfield: Ope Sports, Malta £1.5m

Whilst these clubs account for 45 percent of the league, the reality is that the number of gambling firms involved in sponsoring Premier League club's shirts has dropped since the end of the 2016-17 season, which was the peak for betting on the front of shirts, being seen on 10 teams. In England’s second and third tiers, 16 other clubs have also agreed shirt sponsorship with betting companies.

The companies that sponsor these teams do not appear to have been put off by the UK Gambling Act, 2014 which requires companies that sponsor teams in the UK to obtain a licence and pay a 15 percent tax on profits from UK customers. Currently only Bet365 and Betway have a significant presence in the UK. ManBetX (Crystal Palace) and OPE Sports (Huddersfield) are sponsoring in the Premier League for the first time this season and like the other lesser known companies of LeTou, M88, Dafabet and SportPesa, the UK market is not particularly important to them, since they are just using the global appeal of the Premier League to entice new customers from Asia and elsewhere.

Discussions have already begun about banning gambling adverts on television. The CEO of William Hill has said he is sympathetic to a review around the level of advertising and already in Australia, gambling adverts are banned before 20:30hrs and are not allowed from five minutes before play starts until five minutes after it ends.

Labour wants to take this one step further and ban football clubs from signing shirt sponsorship deals with betting companies. Deputy leader of the Labour Party, Tom Watson, who is the shadow minister for digital, culture media and sport, has said a Labour government would encourage the Football Association to implement its own ban, but was prepared to legislate if necessary.

The Football Association already bans betting firms from sponsoring youth teams under rules that state that clothing can not display products considered “detrimental to the welfare, health or general interests of young persons”. Labour sources say that the FA should extend this thinking to the millions of children who watch football and that promotion of gambling should go the same way as tobacco sponsorship which ended in 2005.

The Gambling Commission published a report estimating that the number of people aged over-16 in the UK and considered to be problem gamblers has grown by a third in three years, suggesting that about 430,000 people suffer from an addiction. Labour is concerned that shirt sponsorship means football clubs don’t take problem gambling among their own fans seriously enough. Labour wants clubs to follow the FA’s lead and remove gambling logos from football shirts, but understands that the potential loss of sponsorship funding could be considerable.

It is not just the shirts. The broadcasting of football matches and highlights shows tend to feature close-up shots showing advertising billboards as well as player’s shirts and most post-match interviews are conducted in front of boards covered with company logos.

Finally...

Labour is considering new plans compelling gambling operators to fund treatment for gambling addicts. The Labour party hopes their plans will apply pressure on the Conservative-led government to publish its own gambling review findings. The Conservative government is challenged by the potential tax losses if gambling is banned, as the difference would be significant.

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