Number of Soccer Clubs Sponsored by Betting Firms on the Rise

Number of Soccer Clubs Sponsored by Betting Firms on the Rise

Gambling concern groups have expressed their worry over the growing number of football clubs sponsored by gambling firms in the UK, describing the trend as “disturbing” and calling for a national debate on the issue. Currently, 9 out of 20 Premier League teams will carry sponsorship messages on their shirts during the upcoming 2018-19 season, rising to a staggering 17 out of 24 teams for the Championship.

Britain has one of the most liberal online gambling industries in the world, as well as one of the most lucrative with the market generating an impressive £14 billion in revenue last year. Nevertheless, many gambling experts believe that the situation has now gotten out of control, especially in terms of the relationship between professional sports and gambling. Commenting upon the situation, Gambling Watch UK’s Professor Jim Orford stated:

“This is worrying. There is evidence that gambling is becoming ever more normalised, particularly among young people, so that increasingly betting is seen as part and parcel of following and supporting one’s favorite sport or team.”

Worrying Statistics

As the UK’s gambling industry goes from strength to strength, the number of problem gamblers in the country of 65 million people has become a matter of chief concern. According to statistics released by the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC), there are currently around two million people at risk of developing a gambling problem in the UK, of which an astounding 430,000 are classed as problem gamblers.

Furthermore, young people have increasingly been caught in the crossfire of the industry, and according to the UK regulator 370,000 children aged between 11-16 gamble each week, including an astounding 25,000 problem gamblers.

Gambling Link with Football Problematic

Football is the most popular spectator sport in the UK, with more and more children and their families now attending matches around the country each week. These days, however, the industry has become increasingly dependent upon the gambling industry for sponsorship, and currently Sky Bet sponsors all three of the English Football League’s (EFL) divisions.

This in turn has led to adults and children being exposed to a plethora of gambling advertisements at each game, or while watching matches from the comfort of their own homes. In addition, Professor Jim Orford has expressed concern that so-called free to play social media gambling, which are now a popular pastime amongst youngsters, has become akin to real gambling as players are encouraged to purchase in-game virtual goods as part of the experience.

Responsible Gambling Campaign

In response, an EFL statement explains that while sponsorship deals with gambling firms “make a significant contribution to the ongoing financial sustainability of professional football at all levels”, the league has a memorandum of understanding in place with Sky Bet to ensure that the relationship stays a “socially responsible” one. Betting firms, for instance, are not permitted to place their sponsorship messages on a clubs’ youth team shirts, or on replica shirts to be sold in children’s sizes.

Meanwhile, professional football players are not allowed to wager on football matches, or endorse any gambling brand. The situation came to ahead during the 2016-17 season, when the Football Association ended a four-year £4 million-a-year sponsorship agreement with Ladbrokes after just a single year. This followed a high profile case in which Burnley midfielder Joey Barton was banned for 18 months after it was discovered that he had placed 1,260 bets on matches over a decade long period.

Barton fought back by accusing the FA of becoming dependent upon gambling companies and promoting gambling, whilst enforcing a worldwide ban on footballers wagering on matches. The FA subsequently ended its relationship with gambling companies, although shirt sponsorship of clubs has remained, with Martyn Ziegler of the London Times stating that “the majority, if not all, of the top-flight clubs would oppose a ban.”