Throughout the course of the review, betting sponsorships in football have been a major talking point. But, the Premier League recently made the decision to beat the government to the punch, and its clubs voted to withdraw front-of-shirt sponsorships after a three-year waiting period.
Russell Yershon, Director of sports marketing services company Connectingbrands.co.uk, discussed with Insider Sport the impacts that the decision will have on the industry as we await the full announcement of the Gambling Act review White Paper.
A shock to no one
Following more than two years of deliberation on front-of-shirt sponsorships, Yershon said we cannot be surprised by the outcome.
“From working in the industry for a while, I’ve known that it was always on the cards,” he stated. “I think it was just a matter of time, the pressure was too strong and I think it was inevitable.”
Gambling firms however, can still advertise in-stadia and on the sleeves of Premier League teams, which brings about the question of whether operators’ sports sponsorship approaches will truly be affected that much.
On this issue, the Director explained: “From season 2026/27, operators will still be able to have branding on the sleeves – which is still pretty strong. Again, from working on a couple of sleeve partnerships in the betting industry, it definitely works well for brands.
“But obviously front-of-shirt is the prize branding asset to gain maximum awareness and the number one preferred asset for a brand.”
Yershon noted how a lot of Asian bookmakers have taken the front of shirt spaces at these clubs over the last decade.
“Should they want to continue investing in the Premier League, they’ll have to switch to sleeve sponsorship,” he said. “But there’s so many assets that work well for brands in partnering with the Premier League.
“You have your sleeve sponsorship, you’ll still be able to have LEDs – the perimeter advertising which we all know is very strong, and also the media backdrops where the managers and players have their interviews.”
He highlighted how this is “absolutely huge” in terms of broadcast awareness globally, adding that the betting brands will still be able to have their fair share of branding to meet their awareness targets.
Betting sent to the bench – a temporary situation?
On the other hand, the loss of shirt sponsorships could be seen as somewhat of a relegation for the industry.
Yershon explained: “I think we’ve seen in other industries that there’s been a crackdown on betting shirts, in Italy, Spain etc. But it could get to a certain level that – depending on what replaces betting brands on the front of shirts – they could change their mind in years gone by.
“I don’t think it’s 100% set in stone that it will be forever. Yes obviously short term, the clubs have agreed to it but let’s see what happens down the line because looking at any new industries that come in, obviously the betting brands are fully regulated. You need to have a UK licence to have your brand on the front of a shirt.”
Looking into what would happen if clubs go down the route of having crypto firms as a replacement, there are concerns, as this sector is more unregulated than betting.
Yershon suggested that the gambling industry would be very unhappy if the Premier League allowed for its clubs to engage with these types of deals.
He continued: “One of the reasons that this has come forward is for children under 18 who are seeing their idols wear the brand on their shirt. With crypto being more unregulated that could cause even more harm.”
With the three remaining years that operators have left in their current standing in the top-flight, Yershon put forward his prediction that we will still see five or more betting brands take to PL shirts.
“You could well even see more brands coming to the market and take any sleeve assets” he added.
Yershon reiterated that from the final Premier League table at the end of season 2021/22, apart from Betway and West Ham, mostly from teams 12 downwards in the league saw betting brands on teams’ front of shirt.
“The betting brands can’t afford to sponsor the likes of Arsenal, Manchester United, Liverpool. But these club’s won’t take gambling brands on the front of shirts anyway.”
If not the Premier League, where else?
Delving into what other marketing options there are now for operators both on and off the pitch, Russell stated that there are “loads” of other opportunities because the Premier League is, after all, just one league out of many.
“Yes it’s the number one league in the world which is the main attraction for these brands, but if you then look at La Liga, Serie A, or other markets such as LatAm which is becoming bigger, these brands have got money to spend.
“They need to think wisely from season 2026/27 about where they put their marketing investment. If it’s not the Premier League it will be another league.”
“Yes it’s a kick-back, but in the grand scheme of things there is plenty more awareness that they can reach.”
Since the decision only affects the Premier division, Yershon discussed the marketing value of some of the lower leagues and other sports such as rugby, boxing and cricket, and how firms can tap into this.
“The Championship broadcast is getting bigger and bigger year on year, which has some really strong players. If the league allows for betting brands, Asia brands can look to sponsor front-of-shirts, and also the value for them will be less which could work really well.
“Looking at other sports, boxing is one where a lot of betting brands do already sponsor big fights.”
The likes of William Hill, Betfred and bet365 have been most prominently involved in the sport. Fans of boxing will be very familiar with the former firm’s branding displayed on the ring ropes of Anthony Joshua’s fights on Sky, for example.
Likewise, this month online casino Stake.com was revealed as the official betting partner of Amazon Prime‘s Live Boxing 4.
The crypto bookmaker’s branding featured ‘heavily’ on Tenshin Nasukawa’s gloves, across the stadium inventory and also in the ring.
Yershon added: “It’s whether the Asian brands come into the market, and as boxing gets bigger and bigger, they may want a piece of the pie for these big fights such as Fury v Joshua, if that ever happens, or Fury v Usyk. The brands may want to take these one-off fights to grow their awareness.”
He suggested that as rugby is not huge in Asia, the more domestic-focused UK brands are likely to look in this area. As cricket gets bigger, such as the IPL and other tournaments, Yershon stated that he wouldn’t be surprised if these companies tap into this market – especially the T-20 competitions which are already seeing some brands explore the area.
Keeping betting’s ‘perfect vehicle’
In line with his personal experience of connecting sportsbooks to sports teams, Yershon described the relationship between the two as a ‘match made in heaven’.
He continued: “It’s a win-win for both. Sportsbooks have worked really well with clubs, they understand the relationship and how they can maximise it to its full potential.
“From someone that has worked on activation, it’s great for a sportsbook to work with sports teams, to support them commercially, deliver great content and have the brand on the front of shirt and maximise the awareness globally so they can grow their turnover.
“These big sports leagues are the perfect vehicle for these brands to gain credibility and grow their awareness and to engage with fans, so it remains an effective tool for bookmakers.”
However, there are still reformists who are critical of betting’s presence in football. Concluding the interview, Yershon went on to discuss whether the decision has done anything to resolve concern.
“Partly yes,” he said. “It’s definitely a tick box there, but then I think we will see a slight increase as brands may maximise even harder over the next three years before the decision comes into play, and some new brands which are also likely to enter the space.”