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Football clubs face government ban on betting brand shirt sponsorship


By John Glenday, Reporter

February 1, 2021 | 4 min read

Football clubs could be prevented from displaying the logos of gambling firms on playing shirts as part of stringent new sports advertising laws under consideration.

West Ham

Bookies could be banned from shirt sponsorships in football and other sports by the UK government

Reports in The Times and The Telegraph suggest the UK government is weighing up the merits of a blanket ban on betting firm kit sponsorships, a move that would hit Premier League and Championship clubs hard in the pocket.

What’s the deal?

  • Mounting concern at the highest levels of government over gambling addiction is likely to persuade prime minister Boris Johnson of the need to enact a ban on shirt sponsorships by gambling firms this autumn.

  • Matters are coming to a head with civil servants serving notice that the biggest state intervention in sports advertising since the promotion of tobacco was banned is on the cards.

  • Any such move would be broadly welcomed by politicians and campaigners who have warned that dressing sports stars as ’walking billboards’ has fuelled a gambling crisis.

What would be the impact on sport sponsorship

  • As things stand, eight of the 20 top flight Premier League clubs have signed betting firms as shirt sponsors, including West Ham, Newcastle United and Leeds United.

  • West Ham benefits to the tune of £10m-a-year courtesy of Betway while Leeds’ deal with SBOTOP is worth £7.8m per season. The Magpies also rake in millions, earning £7.5m a year from Fun88.

  • Welcoming the intervention, Matt Zarb-Cousin, director of lobby group Clean Up Gambling, said: “Footballers, darts players, snooker players and rugby players are like walking billboards for gambling companies.

  • “The evidence shows this sort of advertising is impacting negatively on children who are growing up thinking you have to put on a bet to enjoy sport.”

  • Sir Iain Duncan Smith, a senior figure in the all-party parliamentary group on gambling harm, added: “Banning gambling logos on sportswear would be a welcome step, but given the risks presented by gambling the government will need to deal with this issue more widely. A complete ban on gambling advertising is long overdue and this should be brought forward ahead of the upcoming gambling review.”

  • The decision could spark a crisis of a different kind for Premier League and Championship clubs, who face the prospect of losing a lucrative revenue stream at a time of financial hardship.

  • The ramifications are also likely to be felt far beyond football stadiums with sports such as snooker, darts and boxing all being swept up in the blanket ban; every player in the Professional Darts Corporation’s top 10 displays a betting logo on their shirt.

  • The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, responsible for the implementation of any ban, avers that no decision has been taken at this stage.

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