Ladbrokes announce sponsorship deal with Leicester City and Burnley

Ladbrokes have continued their aggressive foray into sponsorship of football clubs with the announcement that they have reached a betting partnership deal with both Burnley FC and Leicester City.

The deals will see Ladbrokes offer a physical presence at both Turf Moor at Burnley and at The King Power Stadium in Leicester, giving supporters the opportunity to place bets at the grounds. This deal also ensures that Ladbrokes benefit from the Premier League status of these two clubs by having the Ladbrokes branding on the official websites of the clubs.

Ladbrokes are planning on offering unique promotions to the supporters of the clubs they sponsor and promise to give fans a “money can’t buy” range of experiences such as training ground trips as well as offering match tickets. They hope this grass roots engagement with a team’s supporters will encourage brand loyalty in a very crowded UK gambling market.

A Look at Gambling Sponsorship in Football

“I am not alone in football in having a problem with gambling. I grew up in an environment where betting was and still is part of the culture”.

Football’s Mixed Messages

These new deals are quite surprising as Premier League clubs are under pressure to follow the Football Associations lead and cut ties with the betting industry. Earlier this year, the Football Association terminated its £4 million-a-year deal with Ladbrokes after less than a year into the four-year deal.

This decision was taken after a three-month review by the Football Association, during the review it became evident that there was a conflict of interest. The FA are supposed to be the game’s conscience and defenders of the game’s integrity and accepting money from a bookmaker was deemed contrary to the FA’s goals. Due to this, the FA took swift and decisive action and severed all direct sponsorship ties with gambling firms.

Footballer Joey Barton’s case highlighted the contradictions that exist in football. Barton received a 13-month suspension from football when he was found guilty of placing more than a thousand bets over a ten-year span. We explored this case in more detail in a previous article, Barton himself gave a very lengthy statement on his ban:

“I am not alone in football in having a problem with gambling. I grew up in an environment where betting was and still is part of the culture. From as early as I can remember my family let me have my own pools coupon, and older members of the family would place bets for me on big races like the Grand National. To this day, I rarely compete at anything without there being something at stake. Whether that’s a round of golf with friends for a few pounds, or a game of darts in the training ground for who makes the tea, I love competing. I love winning. I am also addicted to that. It is also the case that professional football has long had a betting culture, and I have been in the sport all my adult life”.

Barton’s words certainly ring true to me, although it does pain me to agree with him but he does have a point. As a kid in the 70’s, it certainly wasn’t unusual to be asked to pick teams “out of a hat” to help my Dad pick his pools teams. It’s also not unusual, even now, to involve children when picking lottery numbers, I’m sure most of us have done this in the hope that they may be a lucky charm. Joey also went on to say:

“Given the money in the game, and the explosion in betting on sport, I understand why the rules have been strengthened, and I also accept that I have been in breach of them. I accept too that the FA has to be seen to lead on this issue. But surely, they need to accept there is a huge clash between their rules and the culture that surrounds the modern game, where anyone who watches follows football on TV or in the stadia is bombarded by marketing, advertising and sponsorship by betting companies, and where much of the coverage now, on Sky for example, is intertwined with the broadcasters’ own gambling interests”.

The SKY has No Limit

Barton does raise an interesting point regarding Sky TV, as Sky Sports News is the go to place for many football fans for transfer gossip and news. As we near the end of the transfer market, what safeguards are in place to stop bookmaker transfer market manipulation?

I’ve lost count of the times that the rumours on the screen are conveniently shown with SkyBet odds placed next to them. Surely this platform gives them an unfair advantage in the bookie war! I certainly do echo Barton’s point about the constant bombardment during football adverts, it is totally unrelenting. Like many, after 28 seconds of advertisements telling me to “bet, bet, bet”, I question whether the two seconds at the end when a voice over says “please bet responsibly” does anything to stop a problem gambler and it is patronising at best. A tick the box exercise that helps no-one but is a line of defence when faced by questions from shareholders or anti-gambling campaigners.

In 2005, the government introduced the Gambling Act and this allowed gambling companies to advertise on television for the first time and boy did the companies take advantage of it! Between 2005 and 2012 gambling advertisement increased by an incredible 1400%.

“If the Kids Are United” – It’s 2/1

Twelve years ago, tobacco companies used to sponsor many sporting events, snooker was financed by Embassy cigarettes and who could forget the iconic Marlboro Formula One car? Is promoting gambling, which can be highly addictive to some people, any better?

In the Premier League, there has been an explosion of betting companies putting their name on shirts. Back in 2003 there was just one betting company who was a main sponsor (Fulham with Betfair). In the 2012/13 season, there were 5 betting companies on the shirts of teams, this season there are 10, which is exactly half the teams in the Premier League. The teams and sponsors are; Bournemouth — Mansion Group – Sports betting and casino, Burnley — Dafabet – Sports betting and casino, Crystal Palace — Mansion Group – Sports betting and casino, Hull — SportPesa – Sports betting, Stoke — Bet365 – Sports betting and casino, Sunderland — Dafabet, Sports betting and casino, Swansea — BETEAST – Sports betting and casino, West Brom —, online casino, West Ham — Betway – Sports betting, Watford — Mansion Group – Sports betting and casino.

The Future for Sport Sponsorship Deals

I think in ten years’ time we will look back in surprise that betting companies once used to sponsor football teams in the same way we do now with tobacco firms. The Football Association are obviously uncomfortable with the relationship and will exert gentle pressure on its members.

True action is likely to be forced upon clubs by the government and I could easily envisage a ban on children’s sizes of football shirts bearing gambling or betting related brands. Whilst not the target of advertisements, children are exposed to these campaigns and a recent Australian study on gambling adverts’ effects on children, concluded that due to the often-humorous tone of gambling adverts, youngsters retain the key information.

In the report, the lead professor said “we not only have children who can name gambling companies, but also can tell us things like bonus bets, cash back refunds, and the very specific creative factors within the advertisements they see”. Based on the current evidence we could see a ban of TV advertising from gambling companies.

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