Formula One team Racing Point has ended its title sponsorship with Kenyan bookmaker SportPesa due to ‘home market difficulties,’ according to team leader Otmar Szafnauer of the group.
Racing Point had initially signed a multi-year title sponsorship with SportPesa prior to the 2019 F1 season, described as the biggest sponsorship pledge ever by the Kenyan betting company. Nevertheless, the bookmaker unexpectedly terminated the title sponsorship ahead of the new F1 season which begins March 15 with the Melbourne Grand Prix.
Szafnauer spoke to Motorsport.com and stated: “They had some difficulties in their home market. They still want to be involved but maybe at a different level, but not as a title sponsor.
“So we’re still talking to them and they’re friends of the team and hopefully we can also include them as part of our sponsors and partners.”
The home market issues mentioned by Szafnauer seem to refer to SportPesa becoming the highest-profile bookmaker to be expelled from the Kenyan market in 2019 after a dispute over unpaid player taxes with the Uhuru Kenyatta government.
The recent gambling reform in Kenya has also resulted in Betin, another major market participant, allegedly giving up and opting to close and redundant.
SportPesa has yet to regain access to markets in its home town. With the tax dispute apparently not coming to an end, it seems that the company’s associated professional sports teams have decided to withdraw from existing agreements.
Everton has also recently withdrawn from a multi-year deal with SportPesa, alongside Racing Point. Previously, the club had advertised the betting business on its jerseys, as well as being considered a big sponsor alongside fellow supporter Hull City on the SportPesa website.
Replacing SportPesa as the title sponsor for Racing Point will be BWT, an Austrian-based maker of water treatment systems.
SportPesa and Racing Point, as mentioned earlier, are in talks over a new partnership. The contract, however, would definitely be less financially lucrative compared to the deal made last year.