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£70million a year gone? Football’s Crucial Partnership with Gambling Under Threat

2002 marked a historic moment. Fulham announced the first betting shirt sponsor in the English Premier League (EPL). Since then, the gambling industry have become one of the most prominent partners in the game. With the industry facing regulatory and reputational challenges, will it mark the end of a crucial relationship for football clubs?

Football clubs’ partnerships with the gambling industry are one of the most mutually beneficial relationships in sporting history. EPL teams recorded combined earnings of nearly £70 million from gambling shirt sponsors alone.  Without the gambling industry, many teams would find replacing that income challenging

However, these relationships have been facing increased scrutiny. They were a primary focus of the recent House of Lords Report , calling for a blanket ban on all forms of sponsorship and advertising. Many have expressed concerns about the potential impact this proposal could have, claiming it could be financially damaging many teams and stop clubs being able to reach their global fan bases

These on-going partnerships provide essential income for clubs. Some industry operators have used the sponsorships as an opportunity to promote the ever-important message of responsible gaming.

More definitely still needs to be done. A recent Football Supporters Association (FSA) survey found that only 10% of fans thought their club did enough to promote responsible gaming. If teams and industry operators can work together to better promote responsible behaviours, then they can continue to work together and make a difference in so many ways

Money Makes the World Go Round

Following the move that saw Neymar join PSG for £200 million, the sport reached a new level financially. It created a snowball effect of clubs having to spend massive sums of money to buy players. Without it, they were unable to compete with rivals.

(source: Statista)

Clubs now, more than ever, rely on money received from sponsorships. It helps fund transfers, stadium expansions, improving training facilities, and wages for players and staff. With so many clubs now having sponsorship deals with the gambling industry, they have become an invaluable partner for teams.

Betting sponsors don’t account for any of the 6 most lucrative shirt sponsorship deals in the EPL. Despite this, all these teams still have betting partners as providers of income.

Shirt sponsors from gambling companies are seen on 10/14 of the clubs outside of the ‘big 6’. They provide irreplaceable income and help grow teams. When Everton joined SportPesa in 2017 it grew their shirt sponsorship rights 51%.

Despite these valued partnerships, a potential ban has been discussed for some time now. In late 2019 the government announced it would review the 2005 gambling act and begun rumours of a blanket ban. The Premier Leagues Chief Executive Richard Masters was quick to speak out:

“we’ll be welcome participants in that [review]. I think this area does need stronger
governance, particularly to protect the vulnerable. I don’t think the answer
coming out at the end of it should be that football clubs shouldn’t have shirts
sponsored by gambling companies anymore”

Richard Masters

A similar ban was implemented in Italy in late 2019. It received much outcry due to many clubs and the league itself relying on the income from betting sponsors.

Less than a year later, Serie A authorities have issued a public plea to the government to restore the sponsorships for a minimum 12-month period, especially given the recent pandemic.

UK and Italy have similar GGR and number of clubs with
sponsors, and banning these deals had disastrous consequences for them (Source: SportsBusiness)

In the EFL 17 out of the 20 teams have betting partners, many having multiple. They provide a crucial injection of capital into clubs, one which they could not operate as successfully without.

The English second, third, and fourth division leagues are all sponsored by a betting company. Without this financial infrastructure, these leagues would struggle to operate. Putting 72 different clubs in a difficult position financially.  

Footballs Gone Global

Due to the globalisation of sport, clubs have international fan bases they want to expand. Technology’s rise means fans want to and can be more involved with their clubs than ever before. Many teams rely on betting partners to do just that.

Leicester’s sponsors ‘King Power’ had always seen Asia as a key demographic. They began setting up ‘football clinics’ across Thailand. Sending over coaches, and being led by the country’s best-known goal scorer, Kiatisak ‘Zico’ Senamuang. This helped bolster their image, however, they were keen to achieve more.

This led to the partnership with popular Asian operator M88. The claimed they would ‘bring our loyal customers closer to the club’, and they did just that. The club’s name skyrocketed in popularity across the continent, beginning to compete with Liverpool and Manchester United.

There is a plethora of teams who have made similar deals to grow their brand and fan base. Swansea used to be sponsored by Asian betting operator Letou. Together they created videos of first team players learning how to cook dumplings. These were then shared on popular Asian social media platforms ‘Weibo’ and ‘WeChat’.

Many of the biggest clubs in England all release content on social media tailored for an Asian audience. Arsenal created consistent content on their Asian tour including ‘Ozil, Ox and Lacazette do Kung Fu [in Singapore]’, and ‘Arsenal try Chinese drumming’.

Football clubs have reached a challenging crossroads. With the increasing globalisation of the sport they must now operate similarly to traditional business by generating growth, or risk falling behind their rivals

The game is no longer just played on the pitch, it doesn’t just start when the referee blows the whistle. For many clubs, with fan bases in every time-zone possible, the game never stops.

Clubs have to be willing to constantly produce content to appease their audience. Many of these forms of content wouldn’t be possible without betting companies providing funding and resources.

Following their rise as sponsors, betting companies have begun doing more than provide income and content. They have starting using their partnerships with clubs to promote the responsible gaming message. 

Responsbility to Promote Responsibility

The gambling industry is beginning to better promote the right message and using football club sponsorships to do so.

The Kindred Group, who own 32Bet and UniBet began making notable strides. They announced any match played between 2 teams they sponsored would have responsible gaming messaging throughout. This included logos, slogans on shirts, and changing the advertising boards. 

Some of the slogans on shirts included;

·        ‘Keep Gambling Fun’

·        ‘Play Responsible’

·        ‘Never Chase Loses’

·        ‘Set Deposit Limits’

Both parties have a responsibility to promote responsible gaming. The huge audiences watching football provides a great opportunity to do just this. 

“Gambling companies and the wider industry have an important role to play in tackling problem gambling…to remove the industry from the public’s eye would be irresponsible. Instead, there is a fantastic opportunity for football club sponsors to do so much more”

Spokesman for The Kindred Group

Other betting operators have begun pushing similar messages such as Paddy Power’s notorious ‘Save our Shirts’ campaign. They initially put massive text on partners Huddersfield Towns shirts. 

Then later revealing it all to be a message promoting the idea that ‘kits should be sacred’. The move was aimed at other sponsors, especially other industry operators. Demonstrating there is clearly a place for gambling sponsors in football, however it must come with mediation.

Octagon and VCCP Blue who worked on the campaign, reported it received 528 million social media impressions after just 3 months

Football teams would undeniably face difficulties without gambling sponsors. If clubs want to continue having profitable partnerships with the industry, they need to continue to promote how to enjoy betting responsibly. These efforts need to be sustained by everyone, on a wider scale.

Promoting responsible gaming provides mutual benefits for all. It builds trust between the industry and customers. This will lead to more acceptance from fans towards sponsorships between football clubs and operators.

 Throughout history much of the responsibility for building trust has been left to the industry. However now is the time for others to begin supporting them to successfully spread the responsible gaming message.

Light at the End of the Tunnel?

Football clubs are reliant on the income they receive from the gambling industry. Without it we have seen, and will continue to see, clubs struggle financially. A blanket ban on these profitable partnerships is not the solution.

The introduction of a ‘levy’ like in horse racing could help appease all parties. With clubs and operators alike donating to better fund the education and promotion of responsible gaming.

Football clubs have massive fan bases. In turn they have a responsibility to promote positive behaviours. Through education and better informing fans, clubs can keep their fruitful relationships and promote responsible gaming.

Building trust, protecting players, supporting the gambling industry, and educating fans is a daunting task. However, its one football clubs must accept to maintain their sponsorship deals with the industry.   

Need support tackling this crucial challenge? Get in touch with the Play Responsible team to find out how we can help you. 

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3 Year Expiry Date Set for Sports Betting Sponsorships? 3

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.

Categories
news

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.