There has been a collective agreement within the Premier League. All clubs have confirmed that they will no longer have gambling logos on the front of matchday shirts. The decision to end such sponsorship comes in part due to pressure from anti-gambling campaigners. It’s not only that, though.
Changes to the gambling regulations in the UK will likely have an impact, too. For a long time, rumours have circulated on the banning of such sponsorship. Whether this is a deal worked out as part of the upcoming white paper or not remains a question to answer. As things look from the outside, the Premier League is taking the first step.
The new rules on gambling sponsorship will come into effect by the end of the 2025-26 season. This only focuses on front-of-shirt advertising, though. Clubs will still have free rein to feature gambling brands elsewhere. This means that logos can still appear on shirt sleeves or even LED advertising. Clubs do also have the ability to secure new deals with gambling firms before the deadline.
As things stand at the moment, eight of the Premier League clubs have deals with gambling brands. Reports suggest that those deals are worth around £60 million each year. Some of them, like Everton and Fulham, only recently signed into such new deals. Yet while it looks like the top-tier division is making its own moves, there is likely more to it. Recent talks would point a finger at the upcoming gambling white paper as a reason for the change.
Decision Comes Following Consultation with DCMS
The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) is overseeing gambling reform in the UK. Recently, the department entered into consultations with the Premier League and its clubs. This occurred as part of the review of current gambling legislation. It is most likely due to this that the parties involved reached the agreement on shirt sponsorship bans.
The Premier League, rather than have a ban slapped on it, is choosing to end it on a voluntary level. The idea behind such a ban is to reduce the advertisement of gambling ads during sporting events. Campaigners say they are harmful to vulnerable people and youths.
It comes as another change in mindset, too. Banning gambling firms from sponsoring Premier League clubs was something many believed would be in the original white paper. Then in June of 2022, a significant U-turn took place. At this point, the Government seemed to be backing out of such a ban.
In fact, the entire decision to tighten gambling laws looked like it was being watered down. Of course, if you look back to that time, there were troubles in the UK political scene. Boris Johnson and his party were being investigated over “Partygate”. He would soon resign, and Liz Truss stepped up to the plate. She lasted around one month in the position of PM before resigning as well. Then Rishi Sunak came to power, and the white paper has been in a state of limbo throughout.
Yet the Premier League has also said it will dedicate itself in other ways. Working with other sports, it aims to develop a new code for responsible gambling sponsorship.
Some clubs may take it as a bit of a blow to their funding. Yet it’s not a new idea. It was in July of 2022 that Premier League clubs suggested getting rid of gambling sponsorship. The proposal put forth needed at least 14 of the 20 teams in the top-tier league to agree to it. A three-season transition period was also highlighted as a condition of the proposal. Doubtless, clubs will be missing out on such deals, which are worth a lot of money. The three-season transition period gives them time to seek something else out, though.
Reforms to the Gambling Act on Their Way
The so-called gambling reform white paper is still “on its way”. This is set to alter laws and regulations within the Gambling Act 2005. It is this that currently governs the gambling industry in the UK. Yet many have said that it is out-of-date and not in touch with the modern digital age.
Luzy Frazer stepped up to the plate as Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport in February. She spoke of the decision by the Premier League as a “welcome” one. “The vast majority of adults gamble safely but we have to recognise that footballers are role models who have enormous influence on young people”, she said.
Frazer continued by saying that the DCMS wants to work with institutions like the Premier League. This will help them in doing the right thing for younger fans of these sports. “We will soon bring forward a gambling white paper to update protections”, she said. Many expect this to be a comprehensive overhaul of the industry regulations. A spokesperson for the DCMS confirmed that this is the case last May.
Yet as recently as October 2022, most believed that the white paper had been forgotten. With so many problems to tackle in the UK from energy costs to trade, the gambling review disappeared. It’s only in the past month or two that it has sprung back to life. Even so, some of the rules and changes noted from the first drafts of such are likely to have altered. In-fighting within the Tory party and in Parliament itself delayed the white paper time and again. It is only now that it looks like it will finally see the light of day.
The English Football League (EFL) has often backed gambling sponsorship, though. It spoke of a ban on such deals as costing clubs £40 million per year. Even so, the EFL has said that the gambling industry should contribute to football. After all, it makes a lot of money from people placing bets on football matches and events. It should thus help with the financial sustainability of the sport.
Rather than ban sponsorship deals of this nature outright, the EFL said the agreement reached is much better. “Although the outcome isn’t perfect, it’s a huge step”, said Chairman Rick Parry.
It now remains to be seen how the Premier League clubs go forward from here. It was only last summer that Everton confirmed it had entered a deal with Stake.com. This not only served as a club-record deal, but a multi-year partnership as well. It will ensure that over £10 million a season arrives at Everton’s door, replacing former sponsor Cazoo.
While many people looked for a total ban on sponsorship of this kind, it was always unlikely to happen. The Government receives plenty of funding from the gambling industry itself. Thus, it isn’t likely to impose severe rules that will sever a huge chunk of money from the Treasury.