Everton Football Club have announced that they are to drop their lucrative deal with Kenyan gambling giant SportsPesa two years ahead of time. The termination comes after an internal strategic review of operations, in which they decided to pull the plug on the deal, worth £7 million a year, at the end of the current Premier League season in May.
The five-year deal with SportPesa was only agreed in 2017 and was one of a number of controversial gambling company tie-ins that the majority of Premiership clubs enjoy. This deals which include, West Ham United, Bournemouth, Burnley, Crystal Palace, Norwich City, Newcastle United, Aston Villa, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Watford, have led to cries of the gamblification of football in the UK.
Strategic Review Of Commercial Operations
Everton chief executive Denise Barrett-Baxendale is thought to be behind the termination as the club look to put societal issues ahead of commercial opportunities. Barrett-Baxendale led a strategic review of the club’s commercial operations after last month admitting that the club weren’t entirely happy with the partnership.
Speaking at the club’s AGM last month, the CEO admitted that in an ideal world, the club would prefer a different type of sponsor than a gambling company. The club hasn’t gone so far as to commit to ending all gambling sponsorships in the future but Barrett-Baxendale’s statement at the AGM, coupled with restrictions which apply when the sponsor is a gambling company, makes it unlikely that their next main sponsor will be a betting company.
An Everton spokesperson said;
“This has been a difficult decision but one that allows us to best deliver on our commercial plan and to grasp the new opportunities now open to us. The club would like to thank SportPesa for all of the work that has been done together.
Our partnership has seen our first team visit Africa on two occasions, as well as former players and club staff take part in numerous activations in the region. This has allowed us to grow our own footprint in Africa and further strengthen our special relationship with the continent.”
Even during their last home match when they took on Crystal Palace, who themselves are sponsored by Asian gambling firm ManBet X, the club replaced SportPesa’s logo with that of the club’s own community programme.
Last summer, the Kenyan government warned of grave concerns about young people in the country developing addictions to gambling and falling into inevitable debt.
The East African nation has a massive gambling industry with gross gambling revenue making up almost half of Kenya’s annual health budget. Kenya is also the third-largest gambling market in Africa, after Nigeria and South Africa.
In response, the government there clamped down on regulations in the land and suspended licences across the board, which of course included that of SportPesa.
SportPesa was founded in Nairobi six years ago by an unlikely alliance of Bulgarian casino operators and wealthy Kenyans. This partnership saw the firm expand rapidly and before long enter the market in the UK as well as others across Europe. The company has a UK based office in Liverpool’s iconic Liver building, less than 3 miles from Everton’s Goodison Park home.
Prior to partnering with Everton, SportsPesa had agreed partnerships with Arsenal, Southampton and Hull City.