According to a report by Sportsmail, betting and gambling firms are set to be banned from appearing on the front of football shirts in the Premier League, as part of the 2005 UK Gambling Act review.
It becomes likely that the UK will see changes to gambling advertising regulations, whilst it has been reported that the impact of pitchside and television advertising is also being considered.
Brigid Simmonds, Chair of the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC), took a stance on the betting industry not being solely responsible for problem gambling: “One person with a problem is too many. For the last 20 years, the industry has been the sole funders of research, education and treatment, and only very recently has the NHS come in and decided that they’re going to set up new centres.
“I have visited the one in Leeds and what was absolutely clear from that is that many of those who have a problem with gambling have problems in other areas and this is where it’s got to be embedded in the NHS so that we help those people.”
Currently nine of the English top-flight teams have a betting firm as front of shirt sponsors, with the ban having a ‘potentially significant impact’ on the revenue of clubs outside of the top six.
Simmonds added: “As an industry we’ve just announced that we’re going to spend another £100 million by 2024 on funding the national helpline, on funding Gamble Aware and on funding the 10 million that we’ve just put into education through YGAM and GamCare.
“The Department of Education is now involved because it’s now a PSHE requirement that you look at something around the risks. However, it can’t be left to just the industry alone so I hope that some of this will be thought through a little further.”
A potential prohibition of betting shirt sponsorships has been in the pipeline for some time, having been earmarked as a ‘likely outcome’ of the Gambling Act review by PM Boris Johnson as well as reportedly having the support of his cabinet.
In preparation for severing their ties with betting companies, a number of Premier League clubs held a meeting in March to discuss the future of their relationships with the industry, including Burnley, Crystal Palace, Fulham, Leeds United, Newcastle United, Southampton, West Ham United and Wolverhampton Wanderers.
The ban, however, is reportedly less likely to be implemented to the lower leagues given the significant financial impact it would have on EFL sides.
A source close to the review added: “We are pretty sure there is going to be an end to front-of-shirt advertising. Everybody is expecting that. Reformers want more but a lot of politicians are worried about the lower leagues.
“The Government thinks front-of-shirt will catch the headlines and it will feel like it has made a bold statement.”
The Gambling Act reviews began in December 2020, where the House of Lords Select Committee, on ‘gambling’s social and economic impacts’, recommended 66 critical areas that required ‘urgent’ action from the government.
Commenting on the recent development, Imogen Moss, a Gambling Industry and Regulatory Expert from solicitors Poppleston Allen, noted that an end to front-of-shirt sponsorships could just be the first of a number of reforms, potining to Spain’s outright prohibition of any form of domestic commercial relationships between football and betting.
“Given the DCMS have been clear that the review’s purpose is to overhaul regulations to ensure they’re fit for the digital age, banning a traditional form of advertising like shirt sponsorship might not be where marketing reform ends,” she said.
“Betting brands should now also consider how they market to a football audience via digital means too, with the sweeping changes in Spain – spanning social media and television advertising among other channels – showing the extent of how far governments and regulators can go.”
For Moss, the ban on sports betting sponsors could have an ‘unintended consequence’, as clubs look for alternative partners to replace the revenue source the gaming industry provided and ‘shore up pandemic-stricken finances’. Two possible alternatives, she argued, are the financial trading space and the emerging and expanding cryptocurrency sector.
“These products can carry similar risk levels to gambling, particularly for a new audience and in some cases aren’t as well regulated as gambling is in the UK,” Moss continued. “As such, their marketing activity could also be subject to similar levels of scrutiny and regulation in future.”