ICC allows limited return of betting sponsors but England holds out

The International Cricket Council (ICC) has voted to allow national teams to sign sponsorship arrangements with betting companies for select matches, according to The Times.

Citing sources ‘close to the ICC’, The Times has reported that the global cricket governing body has relaxed its rules to enable betting sponsors during test matches and one-day international (ODI) games.

Also included are ‘bilateral series’, such as the upcoming Ashes contest between England and Australia. However, ICC-organised fixtures such as the World Cup, also taking place this summer, will continue to be absent of betting sponsors.

Meanwhile, a significant response has come from the UK, where the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) has apparently confirmed to the newspaper that it will not allow betting sponsors to return to the national team’s jerseys.

The governing body stated that its primary reason was due to such partnerships breaching its anti-corruption laws, amid a wave of controversy in cricket around betting due to match-fixing scandals in the past.

The sport has been marred by such instances on a number of occasions, such as the 1999–2000 India-South Africa match fixing scandal and the 2018 Sri Lanka cricket pitch tampering scandal.

Also of significance, the ECB’s stance on betting comes at a time of political change regarding the industry in the UK, with the government due to publish its White Paper on the 2005 Gambling Act review this month – apparently within the coming days if some reports are to be believed.

The relationship between betting and sports has been one of the biggest talking points of the two year review, particularly sponsorship arrangements and the subsequent exposure of gambling-content to young people, although much of the focus has been on football.

Just last week, the Premier League confirmed that its clubs had voted in favour of phasing out betting sponsorship arrangements from the 2026/27 season onwards.

Although the Scottish Professional Football League (SPFL) has confirmed that it will not pursue similar measures, the similarity of the Premier League and ECB’s stances suggests England’s sporting authorities may be seeking to distance their sports from betting in the context of public and political pressure.

Meanwhile, the ECB is also in the process of an investigation into England head coach Brendon McCullum due to his partnership with sports betting affiliate site 22BET.

McCullum first partnered with the firm in January 2023, and has been conducting advertising for betting on the Indian Premier League (IPL). 

This has caught the attention of both the ECB and New Zealand regulators, with the former noting potential contradictions with its own anti-corruption code and the latter due to 22BET being unregistered in the country.

A New Zealand Department of Internal Affairs spokesperson informed local media: “22Bet’s current advertising is misleading as they are not a registered New Zealand sports bookmaker, nor are they licensed or regulated in New Zealand by the DIA.

“We are currently looking at avenues we can pursue, including contacting 22Bet advising them to change their misleading marketing and advertising which insinuates in any way that they are a New Zealand-based gambling operator.”

Outside of England and New Zealand, visible links between cricket and betting are a little more apparent. For example, Betway is a partner of Cricket South Africa, sponsoring national teams and domestic leagues.

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