At a conference set for today, Premier League football clubs will explore and address the prospects of betting sponsorships.
According to Sky News, EPL leaders will get a “update on results regarding shirt sponsorships and gambling addiction” this morning.
Continuing review of the 2005 Gambling Act
The government’s continuing review of the 2005 Gambling Act – which is due to close its request for proof process on March 31 – has made football’s association with betting operators a prominent issue.
The Daily Telegraph reported in January that Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s senior cabinet would back a blanket ban on football shirt sponsorships as “the most possible result of the gambling investigation.”
The EPL’s leadership is yet to make a public statement of how it plans to restructure its business arrangements with sports betting and casino companies.
“There needs to be a rebalancing, that is fine,” EPL CEO Richard Masters said at a parliamentary inquiry last November, “but we do not think there should be a prohibition on sponsorship of football clubs, or other sports clubs, for that matter.”
‘Financial knife’s edge’
EFL Chairman Rick Parry warned the government ahead of the publication of the Gambling Act review that lower league football clubs were on a “financial knife’s edge” coping with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The importance of retaining betting relationships, which contribute about £40 million a season to lower league clubs, was emphasised by Parry and EFL chiefs.
Recognising the need for improvement, EFL clubs reaffirmed that betting sponsorships should be primarily based on avoiding harms, emulating Sky Bet’s “transformative campaigns,” which devoted 70 percent of matchday inventory to safer gaming messaging.
FTSE Plcs Entain, William Hill, and Flutter Entertainment have all ended their football sponsorships for the 2019/2020 season, despite the fact that football sponsorships have been heavily scrutinised in the newspapers.
The possibility of introducing a ‘sports rights levy,’ which will be charged by betting companies to regulatory bodies, has been ‘informally discussed,’ as the government recognises that sponsorship restrictions could cause professional sports to lose funding.
Balance between financial interests and public safety
The controversy over betting sponsorships has shattered unity around professional sports, prompting calls for the government to strike a balance between financial interests and public safety.
All gambling industry changes, according to the PM’s cabinet, “will be led by the evidence presented by DCMS’ ongoing review, which triggered its consultation phase last December.”
Meanwhile, after providing a further £300 million winter survival kit to UK games, Chancellor Rishi Sunak is said to be keeping a keen watch on the gambling review’s progress. Steps to limit sports commercial operations returning from lockdown would need to be assessed by the Treasury.
DCMS will issue the ‘white paper’ with suggestions for the UK gaming industry by late summer or fall, as part of the government’s 2021 agenda.