Betting firms sponsoring football clubs has happened for a while, but they may soon disappear from shirts if rumoured changes to the law are enacted.
The English Premier League is the biggest soccer league in the world, and has fans from every corner of the globe tuning in to see who can end up on top. Even many continental football fans, who have great leagues such as Serie A and La Liga to enjoy domestically, keep an eye on the EPL. Between this and the huge number of overseas players and coaches, it’s a very culturally diverse environment. This also applies to sponsorship, and that’s no bad thing.
However, regulatory changes can sometimes turn previous business relationships on their head, and that may soon happen with the EPL as the Government’s possible new ban on gambling sponsors comes into effect.
Football is the most popular sport in England by a country mile, and it’s not hard to see why this also makes it one of the biggest betting categories as fans often put their money where their mouth is. This is why this ban could really have some significance on the current sponsors' campaigns. Even so, whether taking advantage of free bets for sports, or free spins for casinos, players will keep betting. The latter is especially important when trying out new sites as it’s possible to try your luck without any deposit by taking advantage of the top UK no deposit bonuses.
The ban is strongly rumored but not yet announced, and if it should come to pass then enforcement is expected from 2023 onwards. But given the large number of clubs and betting sponsors it could have a significant impact on income. While the big beasts of the EPL will be fine, smaller clubs (and those in the Football League especially) could be more seriously affected.
Again, this has yet to be confirmed, but it’s widely anticipated that shirt sponsorship will be for the chop. This would be a substantial step, though campaigners are also concerned by the numerous advertisements during matches as well. Over half a dozen Premiership and Championship sides have betting firms as shirt sponsors, although this number falls to zero for those in lower tiers. It’s also worth noting that this may not be the end of the matter, as there has been a trend in traditionally liberal Britain recently to row back somewhat on pro-gambling policies. At the moment, shirt sponsor bans are the only widely anticipated change, though.
Shirt sales matter a lot for football clubs, even though it’s a myth that shirt sales alone can fund transfer fees. In reality, they bring in around 10-15% of revenue.
Leeds United is one of the affected clubs, and may be more sensitive than most to a potential financial shortfall due to tumultuous recent history that saw this side racked with turmoil for years on end. Among numerous sponsors at the time of writing, Leeds United has sponsorship from betting platform SBOTOP and major online bookie and casino Bet365, with the former emblazoned on the front of the team shirt. The reason why Leeds, currently struggling to stay out of the EPL’s relegation zone, might be more antsy about sponsor rules changing is that the antics of Peter Ridsdale sent this Premiership side plunging down to the third tier of English football. After several years in League One, they rose to the Championship, but by the time they got back to the Premiership, Leeds had been away for 16 years. If any club knows the potential perils of financial mismanagement, it’s most certainly Leeds.
At the other end of the scale is Newcastle United. The Magpies are sponsored by (among others) Fun88, an online sportsbook and casino, and the firm features on the shirt of the side. However, in terms of money Newcastle is now the dominant force in English football. It was controversial, and earned a lot of commentary, but the side was taken over by a consortium led by the Saudi Arabian government’s sovereign wealth fund. This saw the end of Mike Ashley’s not terribly popular reign, and also made the club the richest in the entire world. Losing a shirt sponsor is unlikely to cause sleepless nights for the club’s accountants.
Between these two extremes there are plenty of other Premiership clubs with shirt sponsors from betting firms. At the time of writing these included Hollywood Bets and Brentford, Burnley’s shirt sponsor Spreadex Sports, and Crystal Palace’s W88 sportsbooks and casino sponsor. In addition, Southampton’s shirts bear the name of Sportsbet.io, and Stake.com looms large on Watford’s kit. Hammers fans who always buy themselves a claret and blue shirt will wear one with BetWay on the chest, while Wolves’ supporters will see ManBetX loud and proud on the front.
The ban is not certain, but it’s highly likely to come in, and around a third of Premiership sides will need to change their shirts if it does happen.