English Football League Clubs Urged to Diversify Sponsorships

English Football League clubs have been warned to diversify sponsorship deals and end their reliance on gambling company front-of-shirt deals ahead of the government’s industry review.

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Clubs Warned Over Sponsorship Deals © Pixabay.

A leading football journalist has urged English Football League clubs to consider the impact of a gambling sponsorship ban on their clubs. Adam Crafton covers football for The Athletic and has warned clubs to diversify their revenue streams to avoid falling into financial difficulty.

The UK government is currently reviewing the current 2005 Gambling Act, and a total ban on gambling-related sponsorship is one of the options the Conservative Party is considering.

Crafton has told clubs to “take their heads out of the sand” and prepare for a total ban on sponsorships related to the gambling industry before it is too late.

Suppose such laws were passed that prohibited front-of-shirt sponsorship deals with gambling companies. In that case, the former Daily Mail writer warns that English clubs could be placed in the same situation as La Liga clubs when a ban was introduced ahead of the current season.

In Spain, some of the country’s biggest clubs, including Granada, Real Sociedad, Alaves, RCD Mallorca, Cadiz and Levante, were all forced to begin the season without a front-of-shirt sponsor after signing lucrative deals with betting companies, a practice that was outlawed.

The Spanish government announced a ban on gambling sponsorships in October last year, and the clubs were unable to find replacement sponsors in time for the domestic kick-off.

Crafton wrote on Twitter: “What happens when you don’t believe a gambling ban on shirts will really come? Look to Spain. Eight top-flight clubs started this season without a shirt sponsor: Granada, Real Sociedad, Alavés, Mallorca, Betis, Valencia, Cádiz y Levante. This will be the Championship v soon.”

The government has promised to make a new law that regulates betting companies that “is fit for the digital age” with current legislation dating back before the days of modern mobile phones, which effectively put a bookmaker or casino in every customer’s pocket.

Members of Parliament are becoming increasingly confident the British government will legislate against betting advertising in football within a year. As a result, many anti-gambling campaigners are pushing for a ban on gambling logos on shirts.

This week, Championship side Bournemouth sealed a deal with QuinnBet which sees the gambling company’s logo on the club’s first-team home, away and third shirts. The club was only able to complete this deal due to the dissolution of the club’s previous agreement with M88, after the commencement of an investigation into the company by the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC).

Six other clubs in the Championship have front-of-shirt sponsors. These are; Birmingham City (BoyleSports), Derby County (32Red), Middlesbrough (32Red), Coventry City (BoyleSports), Bristol City (MansionBet) and Stoke City (bet365).

Ten Premier League clubs have gambling sponsors, and it is estimated that these deals are worth about £70m per year to the clubs. Aside from front-of-shirt sponsorships, many clubs also have ‘official betting partner’ deals in place.

Richard Masters, the new Premier League chief executive, acknowledged football’s long relationship with betting companies, adding: “We’re certainly not sniffy about it; it’s up to our clubs whether they want to have their own gambling relationships.”

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