SBC News Kindred: Sports sponsorship a ‘peripheral issue’ in context of harm reduction

Kindred: Sports sponsorship a ‘peripheral issue’ in context of harm reduction

Ahead of the Premier League potentially severing or significantly limiting its ties with betting companies, Kindred’s UK General Manager has highlighted the positive impact such relationships can have. 

Writing for Politics Home, Neil Banbury laid out the case that betting partnerships can provide an avenue for promoting responsible gambling, reducing harm due to the ‘unique links’ clubs have to communities. 

The Premier League is apparently set to hold a vote in September determining the future of its relationship with betting. At least 14 of the top-flight’s 20 clubs will need to approve a planned phase out of gambling sponsorships.

Asserting that ‘it is a fact that the overwhelming majority use platforms like ours in a responsible way to have a flutter’, Banbury pointed to responsible gambling efforts adopted by the industry, such as Kindred’s ‘Journey Towards Zero’.

He continued: “Despite this, sports sponsorship continues to concentrate debate, even though it is actually a peripheral issue in the wider context of the hard work being done to reduce gambling-related harm, and especially when compared to the powerful measures we take using technology, data and other interventions to keep customers safe which are making a real difference. 

“And we know it can be a force for good, because sport sponsors have a unique link to communities, places and people, and therefore present a huge opportunity to make a difference. 

“At Kindred, we took the decision a few years ago to launch a new model of football club sponsorship – one that means investing in the local community, as well as the club.”

Further highlighting responsible gambling efforts within the industry, Banbury pointed to the recent publication of UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) statistics showing that the British problem gambling rate has fallen to 0.2%.

On the other hand, Gamstop has revealed a record number of self-exclusions via its platform, and the UKGC figures have undeterred gambling reformists who argue that sports sponsorships expose betting to underage consumers can act as a trigger for recovering or current problem gamblers. 

For example – the Big Step Campaign has called on the PL to ‘do the right thing’ and blow the whistle on betting sponsorships, Scottish top-tier teams Rangers, Celtic and Dundee United were urged this week to do the same by a separate reform group, and back in England, both Everton and Fulham’s recently announced operator partnerships were met with fan backlash.

In Banbury’s view, however, the reformists’ argument demonstrates a ‘lack of understanding in the measures needed to drive down rates of problem gambling’, such as around advertising, which he argued functions to provide consumers with choice, as in other sectors.

“Firstly, it exposes a preference for headline grabbing measures, rather than evidence-based solutions,” he said. “There is no evidence to suggest banning sponsorship or advertising would reduce problem gambling.

“Second, it shows a lack of understanding of our businesses, evidenced by the outrageous claims that profit is overwhelmingly derived from those with a problem, which is untrue, and the complete misunderstanding of why any company advertises.

“And thirdly, a lack of ambition to solve problems in a complex, real world. Is there really no more nuanced approach than a blanket ban? Has anyone considered who will take the place of betting companies?”

Banbury concluded his argument by highlighting the financial impact a ban could have on clubs, particularly those at the lower ends of the pyramid – something which had previously been noted by EFL Chairman Rick Parry.

Additionally, in a more foreboding statement, he accused campaigners of pursuing a wider blackout on the regulated betting space with sponsorship as ‘just the start’, adding that this is an issue relating to the balance between customer protection and customer freedom.

“It is vital that policymakers bear this in mind – and maintain the right of responsible, sustainable, licensed companies like ours to sponsor sport as we head towards the publication of the White Paper in the coming months. 

“We can continue to build strong sporting organisations and strong communities through a revitalised sponsorship model – and I’m proud that Kindred are the betting and gaming company leading the way.”

A ban on betting sponsorships was previously earmarked as one of the most likely outcomes of the Gambling Act review, but prior to the announcement of Boris Johnson’s resignation was somewhat watered down, as the Premier League was given more room to set its own terms.

Under the League’s plans – according to The Times, should the minimum 14 clubs approve a severing of sponsorship ties, front-of-shirt sponsorships would be phased out ‘over the next few years’, but sleeve sponsorships would remain an option. 

However, with the Gambling Act  review White Paper’s publication once again halted as the Conservative Party seeks a new leader – and therefore a new Prime Minister – it is still a possibility that sports sponsorships could be covered under the legislative overhaul.

SBC News Kindred: Sports sponsorship a ‘peripheral issue’ in context of harm reduction

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