The English Football League (EFL) has outlined that is partnership with Sky Bet will continue to focus heavily on gambling responsibility, according to Steve Birch, the operator’s Chief Commercial Officer.

As the collaboration nears the 10-year mark, the Flutter Entertainment sportsbook brand’s deal with England’s second-to-fourth flights of football continues amid a debate on betting’s relationship with sports. 

The CCO remarked: “This has always and rightly placed safer gambling at its heart, while also establishing a framework that allows us to engage the millions of EFL fans and connect them with the teams, players, and communities that they passionately support. And if last year’s footballing drama is anything to go by, they are in for another treat this season.”

Gambling reform advocates have repeatedly encouraged a distancing between the two, particularly with regards to the presence of betting branding at venues and more significantly on team jerseys.

Birch added: “Back to full capacity following the pandemic, Wembley hosted close to 200,000 football fans across three exciting league finals in May, whereby two sleeping giants of English football – Nottingham Forest and Sunderland – were promoted from the Championship and League One respectively, with Port Vale coming up from League Two.

“With both attendances at, and viewership of, last year’s EFL finals and play-offs close to record highs, Sky Bet was pleased to have access to its largest sponsorship inventory to date.”

The group has detailed plans to use its sponsorship arrangements to promote safer betting – the ‘Take Time to Think’ slogan will be featured on the sleeve badges of all 72 EFL clubs, across LED advertising, matchday programmes and ‘big screen advertisement’.

Moving forward, Sky Bet plans to maintain a core focus on social responsibility, with Birch explaining how the company has included collaborations with a range of responsible gambling organisations as part of its EFL partnership.

The main objective of this is to promote a responsible betting message, including raising awareness of the ‘TalkBanStop’ initiative provided by GamCare, Gamstop and Gamban.

Birch explained that the initiative is ‘fully backed by Sky Bet’, alongside Flutter’s other brands Paddy Power, Betfair and Tombola, as means for vulnerable bettors to receive support and ban themselves from gambling services. 

Lastly, the firm has also detailed a continuation of a £1m multi-year education agreement with EPIC Risk Management, which seeks to raise awareness of gambling related harm among EFL club staff and players. 

The duo aims to deliver ‘a more refined programme’ shaped by lived experience of those suffering from gambling related harm ‘in and around their club’, including fans and family members. 

“These initiatives demonstrate how both Sky Bet and the EFL have pioneered what a collaborative and constructive partnership can look like between a betting company and a sporting organisation,” Birch concluded.

“As part of Flutter, one of the largest-listed sports betting and gaming companies in the world, we’ve been able to use these learnings to establish similar commercial relationships with leading sports bodies such as the NFL and NBA in the US and the NRL in Australia, while also developing standards around areas such as betting integrity. 

“While these partnerships should not escape scrutiny, neither should their benefits be wilfully ignored. So, like the thousands of football fans cheering on their team this weekend, I’ll be supporting the EFL and our long-standing partnership, all of us hoping for another successful season.”

Having first been struck during the 2013/14 season, Sky Bet’s partnership with the EFL has been described by Birch as one of the ‘most significant’ in football, and was last renewed in 2018 for a further five years until the 2023/24 campaign. 

The company’s last campaign centred around the partnership #StepUp took place during the Championship, League One and League Two play-offs back in May, again factoring in a safer gambling message.

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