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3 Year Expiry Date Set for Sports Betting Sponsorships? 1

Gambling companies’ future in football faces uncertainty. The latest 194-page report by the House of Lords outlines 66 different recommendations for the gambling space. Many of which questioned their involvement in football. Will we see a future for gambling companies in English Football?

The Lords Report Summarised

The relationship with sport and Football was a very prominent part of this week’s publication of the review by the House of Lords on the ‘social and economic impact of the gambling industry’.

No one who enjoys Football betting would argue that the need for practices that create a safer gambling environment is high and that the execution of these strategies are things that operators should be held to the highest standard in.

The outcome of this part of the debate was a recommendation that gambling operators should no longer be allowed to advertise on any part of a football team kit and that there should be no gambling advertising in or near any sports grounds or sports venues including the programme.

This recommendation will not cover horse or greyhound racing and clubs outside of the premier league would get until 2023 to phase this out.

The basic assumption is that Premier League clubs are less reliant on the income they receive from their partnerships with the gambling industry. What is already evident here is a doubFootball fans do tend to watch other sportsle standard. Gambling advertising is either acceptable or it is not. Having a standard that applies to some sports and not others is naïve in the thinking that people won’t still be seeing such advertising.

Can Clubs Survive Without Gambling Sponsors? 

The opinion that Premier League clubs are wealthy is also something of a misconception. Some Premier League clubs from recent times have been in some awfully bad places financially. See Portsmouth. See Bolton Wanderers. See Manchester United even. The biggest club in the country has debts of over half a billion pounds. Call it advertising. Call it sponsorship.

It is most definitely an investment that football clubs need and have come to rely upon. Regardless of size. Regardless of which league they are in.

The contribution financially from the gambling industry can have great significance. The fact that clubs choose to spend hugely on wages is not the industry’s fault.

It is also very rewarding for employees in the industry to see their branding showcased on TV or in stadiums and it should not go unnoticed that in many cases a number of these spaces would raise significantly less revenue if it wasn’t for the contribution from the gambling industry.

The negative side of this is that ultimately it will be visible to people below the age threshold which is problematic if said sponsorship leads to marketing being pushed out into the same areas.

The perception remains that football is still the ‘working class game’ and the rise in TV and online opportunities to bet has created a feeling that the game has been invaded by those seeking to profit from it.

It is very difficult to make any link to gambling ‘sponsorship’ and problem behaviour but it is easy to make the link between that and negative public perception which then becomes very easy for pressure groups and those who are opposed to this as a form of leisure to take fuel from that.

History of Responsible Gaming Helps Horse Racing

Common sense appears to have prevailed where horse racing is concerned. History tells us that gambling and sport are intrinsically linked and have by and large been able to peacefully co-exist for most of that time.

History, right up to the current day also tells us that Horse Racing has been able to showcase the complete circle of how revenue into gambling comes out as a return with transparent and visible benefits, something that is evident to this day and perhaps a reason why the animosity from the football community isn’t evident in racing. History shows that where mutual benefits and responsible behaviour exists then relationships are widely stable.

About responsible behaviour, Gambling and Football have failed to work collaboratively together so far and have brought the situation it finds itself in now on its collective self.

Horse Racing is the example to follow and it isn’t difficult for football to follow the lead of that. Having a clear and transparent way of displaying how money from the industry helps football at all levels, down to the very grass roots is critical.

It is also of real importance that any football club who promotes gambling via any means, takes responsibility for the messaging they put out to their audience. Football is happy to take the money yet is not doing their bit to promote responsible gambling behaviours. This is the time for football clubs to make a statement and better educate their fans about responsible gaming.

The Future of Responsible Gaming in Football

The gambling industry itself is now reliant on football for their revenues so it should be considering a racing style ‘levy’ so that every single person who chooses to bet can at least feel that they are contributing to the wider good of the game.

Imagine if clubs like Bury were able to be saved by emergency funds that have come from the industry? That is just one example of how people can transparently see where good can be done. Instead the football watching public are seeing record gambling revenues and players on fortunes a week and that isn’t helping, with no content in place to better educate and inform the audience.

What is disappointing is that the gambling industry and the sport of football are needing the intervention of politics here. The industry continues to be seen as the bad guys in this relationship but as a collective, those involved in these commercial arrangements on the football side haven’t judged the mood around them.

If clubs had taken a more personal stance surrounding responsible messaging and been able to demonstrate that revenue received has made a positive difference to their communities then the debate becomes an altogether different one.

If clubs took the time to educate their audiences about responsible gaming, and demonstrated the potential benefits these betting sponsorship can have, then it would be increasingly difficult for the a total ban to be enforced. The report went straight to the highest possible sanction with calls for a total ban. That is easier to understand than it is to agree with, but they obviously feel that there is no other option. The industry and the sports that they are investing in should take a strong stance to oppose this or face some exceedingly difficult outcomes in the coming years. As with anything, balance is needed. The ban helps one issue and creates several others. There is a place somewhere in between where everyone’s objectives will be met, and it probably isn’t hard to get there if everyone can work collaboratively towards a common goal.