A big topic that has been discussed as of late is whether or not football clubs should be banned from utilising gambling companies as their shirt sponsors. While there are benefits on both sides for these arrangements – the gambling companies get to promote themselves through various forms of advertising while the football clubs experience a nice influx of money – campaigners have said that such sponsorship promotes gambling too much. Especially when young and vulnerable people are watching matches and see advertisements for betting companies on the shirt of every player on the pitch.
Originally, it was part of the review of the Gambling Act in the United Kingdom that such sponsorship deals on football shirts would be banned. Yet that whole sector was thrown into total disarray in June after a big argument broke out between members of the Tory party.
Some wanted to proceed with it and others voted against it, leaving it as a topic that was up in the air. But perhaps there is hope on the horizon in one way or another. In July, it was reported that Premier League clubs would agree to voluntarily ban themselves from securing betting company deals for shirts. That proposal, which was said to be subject to certain terms and conditions as well as a three-season transition period, needed to be agreed on by at least 14 of the 20 Premier League teams.
If this is the case though, what exactly will they be missing out on? How much are these shirt sponsorships from gambling companies worth? And can the teams make that money up from being sponsored by other brands?
The Issue with Gambling Company Sponsorship
For many years now, fans of football (and even of other sports) have been able to watch their favourite teams and see gambling company logos emblazoned on their shirts. And even now, multiple teams are involved in deals with gambling companies where shirts are concerned, including Brentwood being sponsored by Hollywood Bets, Crystal Palace being gaining sponsorship from W88, and Newcastle United displaying Fun88 on its shirts.
For most football fans, this has been of little consequence, and is simply a word or logo on a t-shirt that the players are wearing. For others, it may have been a bit more of a curse, though.
Speaking on the potential for football shirt sponsorship of this nature to be banned, Labour MP Carolyn Harris who chairs the all-party parliamentary group for gambling-related harm (GRH APPG), said the ban is “the right thing to do”. She continued on by saying that we’re all bombarded by gambling advertisements, and that they should be banned outrightly so as to protect children and “prevent harm”.
Because the sponsorship deal is so brazenly displayed on the shirts, campaigners have suggested that it works as not only heavy promotion for the betting sites or brands, but as a trigger for those who are vulnerable. Seeing popular and favourite players running around the football pitch with logos of gambling brands on their shirts could lead to them engaging in gambling at those same sites or others.
Couple that with the standard advertisements on television for betting, bingo and casino companies, as well as billboards running around stadiums and so on, and there is a vast network of gambling ads being thrust out into the world.
So, what would it mean to both the gambling companies and those football clubs in the Premier League to lose out on such deals?
How Much the Shirt Sponsorship Deals Are Worth
If the Premier League clubs in the United Kingdom did indeed choose to ban themselves from proceeding with shirt sponsorship deals with gambling companies, then there is little doubt that there would be an impact felt on both sides.
Even though Manchester City’s sponsorship deal with Etihad Airways (not a gambling company) remains as the most lucrative in the league (estimated to be worth at least £67.5 million per annum), gambling sponsorship deals are still high up on the list for many teams.
Premier League shirt sponsors 2022/23 season
Bournemouth currently has a deal signed with Dafabet, which was just signed in 2022. No value was given for the sponsorship deal, which will last for the next two seasons. Dafabet also sponsors Scottish soccer team Celtic and previously sponsored Aston Villa and Everton.
Brentford entered into a deal with Hollywoodbets in 2021 for an undisclosed sum of money and said that the first 1,000 fans to purchase replica shirts for the 2021/22 season would get a free Premier League badge printing, thanks to the betting company. The sponsorship deal’s length has also not been announced.
Everton made quite an odd move in June of this year, signing into a deal with betting firm Stake.com, considering the team’s CEO said that it would not partner with gambling companies in an ideal world just two years ago. The multi-year deal with Stake.com is reported to be worth more than £10 million per season.
Fulham announced its own sponsorship deal with W88 this year too, serving as front-of-shirt and Main Team partner for the 2022/23 season. While the deal is only for one season, the sum of money it cost has not been disclosed.
It is also the case that Leeds United are sponsored by a betting company in SBOTOP. That deal was entered into in 2020, and it is worth about £6 million per year, with the length of the sponsorship not mentioned.
The case of Leicester City is an interesting one, as the team signed a deal with FBS in 2021, which is an online trading company. Trading may be advertised as a different activity to gambling, but many parallels between the two sectors have been drawn, and the deal for Leicester is said to be worth more than £12 million per season. That stood out as being a “record” deal for the Premier League team, and it will expire in 2024.
You’ll also find that Newcastle United is sponsored by a gambling company. Signed in 2021 for an undisclosed period of time, the Fun88 Asian online betting brand sponsors the Premier League team for £6.5 million per year.
Southampton signed a “record” deal in 2021 with Sportsbet.io, which is due to expire in 2024. This came about after a one-year deal was signed with the sports betting company in 2020, and seemingly both parties liked how things were proceeding and decided an extension was the way to go. The value of the deal has never been disclosed.
And finally, the West Ham United players have been on the pitch in their Betway-sponsored kit since 2019, and that deal will last until 2025. It is a deal said to be worth £10 million per year. When the announcement of the potential change banning gambling shirt sponsorship deals came about, this partnership was the most talked about as being affected by it, as it could have forced the termination of the deal early.
In March 2022, West Ham played against Sevilla in the Europa League, visiting their opponents’ stadium in Spain for the match. Due to laws in Spain banning football clubs from displaying betting companies or logos on their shirts, the Hammers played with blank kits instead.
Proposition to Ban Themselves
There was so much talk of football teams being banned from securing gambling company sponsorship deals and then not being that potentially, the Premier League has simply taken matters into its own hands. Clubs only want to proceed with the voluntary ban of such deals if it will only affect the fronts of their t-shirts. Sleeve tie-ups are another matter altogether, and the voluntary ban is something that won’t include them. Plus, the phasing out of such deals taking place overt three seasons is one of the terms in place, so that those clubs with current deals are not directly affected by it.
At the same time, pressure on the government from the Premier League clubs is said to be high, as the banning of these deals will doubtless cause a financial impact for the teams. Per season, the football clubs could lose between £5 million and £10 million, depending upon the terms of their current deals. This is something that teams want the Premier League to take into account when it comes to negotiations over how much money should be given to the English Football League (EFL).
Premier League clubs have probably decided that they will take the necessary action in response to the threats the government has made with the upcoming white paper on the UK’s gambling industry. And while the specifics of the paper are not yet known, it was thought that the Premier League sponsorships would be directly affected, whereas the remaining EFL teams would not have the same ban imposed on them. This would affect them too much financially.
A final vote on the decision to voluntarily ban gambling company shirt sponsorship is likely to take place at some point in September. It is then that the new Prime Minister of the United Kingdom is expected to be appointed, and the hope that a more stable government is in position. The white paper on gambling reform is also expected soon after this appointment takes place, although it has already been delayed numerous times over.
As well as the Premier League teams that are currently sponsored by gambling companies, various teams in the Championship are also signed into similar deals. BoyleSports is the current sponsor of the Birmingham and Coventry teams, while Watford is sponsored by Stake.com. Meanwhile, Middlesbrough players are currently wearing shirts emblazoned with the Unibet logo, while Stoke proudly displays the Bet365 moniker on their shirts.
What Would It Actually Cost?
In 2021, a Peers for Gambling Reform (PGR) report suggested that a ban on shirt betting company sponsorship would cost the EFL £26 million, which does not include any impact on the Premier League. Yes, that does sound like a lot of money when you read it like that but put it into context and you’ll discover more. That £26 million is a total of £48 million less than what Chelsea paid to add Kai Havertz to its roster of players in 2020.
Within that same report, it was stated that the sports leagues and teams that were assessed would be
“unlikely to be significantly harmed by a ban on direct sponsorship, as gambling sponsorship revenue is a small revenue source relative to the total, and non-gambling sponsors exist to fill any gap created…”.
The £26 million loss is equal to a 2.5% shortfall. That exists because gambling companies are able to pay out about 50% more than the non-gambling companies in order to secure a deal with football clubs. Yet when you put that up against the wider threat that has been talked about surrounding public health benefits, it’s quite a small price for the clubs to pay. Ergo, according to this report by PGR, football within all leagues and divisions in the UK will survive without those gambling sponsorship deals.
Moving away from the EFL and into the Premier League, if you were to take the deal that West Ham secured with Betway, which is worth £10 million per season, it’s easy to see how little this is to them. Pre-COVID, West Ham reported a revenue of £216 million for the 2018/19 season.
Replacing the Betway sponsorship with a sponsor paying 50% less would also represent a 2.5% decline in revenue. Yet the most expensive player ever picked up by the Hammers is Sebastian Haller, which cost the club a total of £45 million in 2019. Andriy Yarmolenko serves as the team’s highest paid player, with reports suggesting he makes more than £115,000 per week.
Furthermore, moving to non-gambling shirt sponsorship has proved to be lucrative for other clubs recently. Once the 2019-20 season had finished, both Aston Villa and Everton chose to move away from their gambling shirt sponsors in W88 and SportPesa respectively. The two teams signed deals with the digital car sales company Cazoo. From that, Everton saw a 60% rise in shirt sales and Aston Villa experienced a 50% rise.
Granted, those sales are unlikely to cover the 2.5% shortfall mentioned earlier, but it does highlight other opportunities that are able to be taken advantage of outside of gambling companies. We could write a whole book on severing football players’ wages, too!