Gambling review in June

UK Govt. reportedly considering banning gambling brands as Premier League shirt sponsors

An example of a sports betting sponsorship between West Ham United and Betway.
2022-05-23
Reading time 1:54 min

With the UK government scheduled to update gambling laws in June, and after a recommendation made by a House of Lords committee in 2020 was later included in a draft white paper, Premier League soccer clubs could face a ban on displaying gambling sponsors on their shirts, the BBC reports. The criterion outlined is to allow young fans to be able to watch matches without being bombarded by gambling ads.

Even though campaigners have welcomed the idea, they also considered it "incoherent" if the measure was not also applicable to teams in the English Football League (also known simply as the "Championship") and for other adverts. To remove gambling from shirts but still allow pitch-side advertising, sponsorships and partnerships to continue was labeled counterproductive by many stakeholders.

Despite the fact that the original recommendation pointed exclusively at the Premier League clubs, Championship clubs -the second-highest division in the English football league system after the Premier League- could now also be targeted, with a recommendation they should be given time to phase out their existing partnerships. 

As reported by BBC Sport, a spokesperson for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) stated: “We are undertaking the most comprehensive review of gambling laws in 15 years to make sure they are fit for the digital age," and assured a white paper setting out their vision for the sector will be published in the coming weeks. 

The delay in the publication of the white paper means clubs might already be negotiating contracts for next season onwards, which would imply that any ban is likely to be applied for 2023-2024 at the earliest. But there have also been discussions about whether Premier League clubs could offer to remove gambling sponsorship from shirts voluntarily, as the league has previously said that “a self-regulatory approach would provide a practical and flexible alternative to legislation or outright prohibition."

The English Football League, which is sponsored by operator Sky Bet, has also pointed out that a gambling sponsorship ban would cost clubs £40 million ($50.2 million) a year.

Even though a recent YouGov survey showed that up to 1.4 million people in Britain are being harmed by gambling, the Premier League and EFL have claimed there is no evidence to show "a causal link" between gambling sponsorship and problem gambling, BBC Sports reported. 

Nonetheless, back in April, the EFL clubs and other non-league teams called on the UK Government to ban all gambling advertising within football. A total of 20 clubs signed a letter to the Government, seeking to put an end to gambling sponsorship to try and “challenge the notion that football is dependent on gambling advertising revenues." 

Last month, the Advertising Standards Authority also applied tougher rules on gambling advertising in the country regarding celebrities, sportspeople and social media influencers’ participation, which will become effective on October 1, 2022. 

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