Less than a year after former chief of the association, John Delaney, signed a two-year sponsorship agreement with the Kenyan sports betting giant, the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) has cut its links to SportPesa.
Despite its financial woes, the FAI moved to end its two year deal with SportPesa. The first announcement of the sponsorship deal was in March 2019.
After last year’s confirmation of the FAI’s deal with the betting company, gambling addiction groups put massive pressure on the body for team up with a gambling operator.
In mid-March 2019 the FAI announced its deal with SportPesa. Back then, the football association said the gambling company would partner with it on a programme of corporate social responsibility. John Delaney, former chief executive of the FAI, announced that SportPesa would sponsor Irish football, said that it would be the last time they made a betting sponsor and that they would “get a bit of a stick, but we just have to put up with it.”
Mr. Delaney left the FAI soon after the announcement of the SportPesa contract, leaving the organisation in significant turmoil.
In 2017 after several high profile scandals involving players being caught betting on matches, the English Football Association cut ties with its sponsor Ladbrokes. In recent years, a number of Ireland League players have been implicated in match-fixing and betting on match controversies, which was another reason why many frowned on the FAI agreement with SportPesa.
The Sunday Times notes that SportPesa had asked the Irish Football Association to refrain from being too public about the sponsorship deal being recently terminated.
A spokesperson for the association told the news outlet that a mutual agreement had been reached between the gaming company and the football body to end their relationship and that “a re-evaluation of the sponsorship focus at the FAI prompted discussions between the two parties which has led to the expiry of this deal in January.”
SportPesa reflected that while enjoying a “highly successful partnership” with the FAI, they respected the fact that the association “has decided to shift its priorities and re-evaluate its partnerships portfolio.”
The comment from the betting operator went on that “as an organisation that takes responsible gambling incredibly seriously, we understand the new approach taken by the FAI towards its partnerships with those in the gaming sector.”
In the midst of major financial problems, the FAI terminated its deal with SportPesa. Nonetheless, those could be resolved soon after a rescue package of nearly € 20 million signed by the government this past week that aims to save the group.
The plan consists of upping FAI’s Sport Ireland grant for the next four years from € 2.9 million to € 5.9 million. The company owning Aviva Stadium in Dublin will also receive a € 7.63 million refundable grant over the next three years. The FAI is the stadium’s Part Owner.
The FAI will receive more than € 30.8 million from the Irish Government through 2023, including the recently approved package and grant money already approved.