Time For The Clubs And Gambling Firms To Get Their Collective Heads Out Of The Sand
To some it’s a marriage made in hell, but the link between football and betting goes back far longer than the birth of the internet.
After horse racing, football has typically been the second port of call for those wishing to invest a few pounds on a weekend, with a football coupon part and parcel of a trip to the match for many. And with a high proportion of the British population supporting a team, a bet on your side is viewed as showing solidarity with your club.
The biggest shock in British football in recent years was Leicester’s Premier League win in 2016, with a host of stories coming out towards the end of the season of fans picking up their winnings after investing when the Foxes were 5,000-1 at the start of the season, reports FC Business.
But it’s at the commercial end where the big money is involved that issues are starting to be raised, with many clubs displaying a betting firm on their shirts. This season 40 per cent of Premier League clubs are sponsored by betting firms – Brentford, Burnley, Crystal Palace, Leeds United, Newcastle United, Southampton, West Ham United and Wolverhampton Wanderers – a trend which at present shows no signs of abating.
In the EFL, gambling sponsorship is worth an estimated £40million to the clubs, with talk of removing it from the business in a bid to tackle problem gambling receiving short shrift from chairman Rick Parry. “It would be potentially catastrophic if it came in overnight. It would create major difficulties.”
To some firms, the sponsorship is a way of supporting a local team with bet365 games synonymous with Stoke City, the city where the business was born, but there are growing concerns about the betting firms’ growing influence as young fans see gambling as much an aspect of football as a pie at half-time.
If you think it’s just a few hoardings around the ground, a logo on the front of the shirt and the backdrop for the post-match interviews then it’s not, with many other ways of the gambling firms to get involved. A club’s shirt may be sponsored by an international airline but they will have a ‘betting partner’ that runs the betting shops and booths found around the stadium.
With concerns about the normalisation of gambling for children, the betting firms got together and agreed to a voluntary ban during live football on TV, a move seen by many as an attempt to so something positive in a bid to halt potentially stricter measures being introduced. But politicians are still keen to see further action, and this year they have called for a ban on gambling firms sponsoring football shirts, a move that could be confirmed in the next couple of months. BBC Sport
Football has a habit of burying its head in sand until it’s too late with a good example seen in La Liga in Spain – six top-flight Spanish clubs are sporting shirts with no sponsor this season after a ban on it came into law, a move they didn’t believe would happen until it did.
But there are two sides of the argument and the betting firms are businesses, and to invest in football seems as obvious as Paddy Power sponsoring a race meeting at Cheltenham. However, the clubs’ marketing departments need to get their thinking caps on because a shirt ban is coming and if they don’t diversify their partnerships, they may well end up with a first-team top looking like a throwback to 1985.