The Premier League has been threatened with an investigation unless club bosses ‘provide satisfactory answers’ as to why clubs have partnered with TGP Europe, an Isle of Man business linked with jailed Macau tycoon Alvin Chau.
Grabbing Asian business headlines last week, Chau – the former CEO of ‘junket operator’ Suncity Group – was sentenced to 18 years in prison by the Macau First Court, found guilty of 100 charges related to organised crime and illegal gambling.
Chau was deemed the mastermind of a criminal sportsbook empire that processed over £85bn in illicit wagers and provided millions in unauthorised credit loans to Chinese ‘high-rollers’ through Sun City’s junket services.
Premier League clubs have been caught-up in the downfall of Chau, as this weekend a Daily Mail investigation revealed connections between the Macau businessman and The Gaming Platform (TGP).
The league’s current sponsorship portfolio sees ten clubs’ partner with eight ‘Asian-facing’ sportsbook brands that have used TGP services to secure UK online gambling licenses.
The Daily Mail underlined that “there is no suggestion any of the clubs or those brands knew of any potential link between Chau and TGP.” However, the investigation “raises serious questions about the circumstances in which the clubs receive millions of pounds from such betting sponsors, and how the sector is regulated.”
TGP-related sponsorships carry a significant presence within Premier League grounds, currently visible at league leaders Arsenal via Sportsbet.io and champions Manchester City through 8xBet.
Further tie-ups include Everton, sponsored by a TGP-serviced deal with Stake.com, and Asian gaming brand Fun88’s partnerships with Tottenham Hotspur and Newcastle United.
Principal shirt sponsorships are carried by Leeds United and SBOTOP, Crystal Palace and Bk8, and Wolverhampton Wanderers FC with 12bet.uk.
Conservative peer Sir Iain Duncan Smith, Vice-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Gambling Harm, lambasted the Premier League and UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) for allowing TGP brands to have a presence in English football.
Duncan Smith told the Daily Mail reporters: “The reputational harm to the EPL, which has been a global success story, is considerable and this risk is not to be taken lightly.
“The APPG would call on the Gambling Commission, the Premier League, the clubs and also TGP itself to explain the nature of these links and if we are not satisfied with the explanation, we will be holding an inquiry.”
The UKGC has responded that it has no direct authority to demand football bosses to reveal the owners of club sponsorships that can be hidden from the public via private trusts in offshore territories.
When questioned by the Daily Mail, the Premier League responded that they had carried out due diligence on their betting partners but did not find it “practical or necessary” to review other companies working on assisting commercial tie-ups.
The Investigation was deemed as another black mark for the Premier League as the government moves to publish the Gambling Review white paper in February.
The Gambling Harm APPG stands by its recommendation that betting sponsorships should be eliminated from English football, in which the Premier League holds no grounds to decide its commercial future with gambling.
‘It is clear that the Premier League clubs need to come clean on whether they know who the beneficial owners are of these Asian-facing brands.” Duncan Smith added.
“Have the clubs done full due diligence, and whether, ultimately, they know where the tens of millions of pounds that pour into their coffers comes from?”