Report: Premier League a step closer to betting sponsorship ban

According to a report from The Times, Premier League clubs are set to agree upon a ruling that would ban gambling companies from front-of-shirt sponsorships on team shirts. 

The proposal is expected to be discussed at a Premier League shareholders meeting today with a vote reportedly due to take place. 

The reported steps taken by Premier League clubs come as the relationship between football and gambling prepares for regulatory overhaul, with the government’s Gambling White Paper set to be published in the coming months. 

Nonetheless, according to the report, sleeve sponsorship is less likely to be included in the plans of Premier League clubs. 

The meeting is likely a response to increasingly intense spotlight over betting’s relationship with sports in recent years, especially within the context of the Gambling Act review.

A ban on sponsorship arrangements between sports organisations and bookmakers was touted as a ‘probable outcome’ of the review – described by some lobbyists as a ‘common sense’ conclusion.

However, the proposal has been watered down to an extent to focus just on front-of-shirt deals with top-flight teams, leaving sleeve branding a continuing possibility.

The gambling White Paper has been long in the works and is projected to be published by the government next month. Government officials have indicated that a voluntary ban would rule out any similar discussions to be held during the meeting of the White Paper. 

Discussions over the relationship between gambling and English football’s top flight intensified last month as a touted deal between Aston Villa and operator BK8 drew criticism from many quarters. 

The backlash largely revolved around the company’s ‘sexually provocative’ marketing, which also led to Norwich City ending a collaboration with the firm. 

At the time of the deal, SBC Director or Sponsorship, George Harborne, analysed the microscope deals of this ilk are placed under, revealing his belief that this level of scrutiny is not something new in the UK market. 

He stated: “The political backdrop against which this agreement has been announced means that it would always have faced scrutiny, but that isn’t something new for deals of this type in the UK. 

“The choice of partner has amplified that scrutiny given the reasons for a previous agreement with the brand being terminated by a different club.” 

Furthermore, it comes as the government has vowed to take a strengthened approach to the sport’s governance, pledging to put ‘fans at the heart of football’ when it comes to safeguarding the sport’s heritage and regulatory framework. 

As it stands, eight out of 20 Premier League clubs front a gambling company on their shirts and have cited monetary value in the midst of losses in revenue due to the pandemic as a key reason for the sponsorship deals. 

A final vote may occur in the Premier League’s summer meeting in June, but The Times reports that if the ban proposal gains enough support from clubs, a three-year transition period from pre-existing deals should be included. 

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