Premier League clubs to discuss their betting sponsorship futures

Premier League football clubs will examine and discuss the future of betting sponsorships at a meeting scheduled for this Thursday.

Sky News has this morning reported that EPL leaders will receive an ‘update on findings around shirt sponsorships and gambling addiction’.

Football’s relationship with betting operators has become a prominent concern of the government’s ongoing review of the 2005 Gambling Act – which is set to close its call for evidence phase on 31 March.

Back in January, the Daily Telegraph cited that PM Boris Johnson’s senior cabinet would support a blanket ban on football shirt sponsorships as ‘the most likely outcome of the gambling review’.

EPL leadership has yet to publicise its official stance on how it would choose to restructure its commercial relationships with sports betting and gambling operators.

Speaking at a parliamentary inquiry last November, EPL CEO Richard Masters remarked that “there needs to be a rebalancing, that is fine, but we do not think there should be a prohibition on sponsorship of football clubs or other sports clubs, for that matter”. 

Ahead of the publishing of the Gambling Act review, EFL Chairman Rick Parry warned the government that lower league football clubs were on a ‘financial knife-edge dealing with the consequences of COVID-19 pandemic’.

Parry and EFL leaders underlined the critical importance of maintaining betting partnerships, which contribute around £40 million per season to lower league clubs.  

Acknowledging the need for change, EFL clubs reaffirmed that betting sponsorships should be solely focused on preventing harms, replicating the ‘transformative campaigns’ by Sky Bet which saw 70% of matchday inventory dedicated to safer gambling messaging.

Though football sponsorships have received significant media scrutiny, UK betting has limited its terrace exposure with FTSE Plcs Entain, William Hill and Flutter Entertainment ending all football sponsorships during the 2019/2020 season.

The option of imposing a ‘sports rights levy’ to be paid by betting operators to governing bodies has been ‘informally discussed’ as the government recognises that advertising curbs will raise funding concerns from professional sports. 

The debate on betting sponsorships has split consensus across professional sports, for which the government has been urged to find the balance between commercial interests and maintaining public safeguards.

The PM’s cabinet has maintained that all gambling sector reforms ‘will be led by the evidence presented by DCMS’ ongoing review, which triggered its consultation phase last December.

Meanwhile, having provided UK sports with a further £300 million winter survival package, Chancellor Rishi Sunak is reported to be eyeing gambling review developments closely. A Treasury assessment will be required on measures that reduce sports commercial activities recovering from lockdown. 

The government’s 2021 agenda will see DCMS publish its ‘white paper’ of recommendations for the UK gambling sector by late summer or autumn.

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