It was reported last week by SportBusiness 24 that Chelsea FC are on the verge of agreeing a shirt sponsorship deal with gambling firm 

The Premier League club’s previous deal with mobile network Three has expired and a new shirt sponsorship deal would be the first under club owner Todd Boehly’s tenure. 

However, the news that Stake is willing to offer the two time UEFA Champions League winners a reported £40m three-year deal is surprising coming ahead of an agreed league-wide ban on front-of-shirt sponsorships by gambling operators. 

The new rule will come into effect at the end of the 2025-26 season, which would coincide with the conclusion of the reported three-year deal between Chelsea and Stake.

Director of SBC Sponsorship, George Harborne, said that the potential deal came as a surprise to him and that a “combination of very unique circumstances” may have come into play. 

He said: “The rumoured deal has surprised me given that I neither thought that a gambling industry operator would commit such a large reported sponsorship fee into one deal, nor did I think that a club the size of Chelsea would take a partnership from the gambling industry as its main partner. 

“I think we are seeing the combination of a very unique set of circumstances that this potential partnership could happen.”

What followed the rumoured Stake deal was that the announcement of the Premier League blocking Chelsea from agreeing a potential shirt sponsorship deal with Paramount+ over concerns that brandishing a TV and streaming company would conflict with the league’s current TV rights holders. 

These developments drew the ire of the Chelsea Supporters’ Trust, which released a statement that suggested the Stake sponsorship would make a “mockery” of its dedicated work to problem gambling awareness. 

Harborne believes that the potential Stake partnership could prove to be little more than a holding deal for Chelsea, driven by circumstances created by a turbulent period off the pitch and disappointing results on it. 

He continued: “In reality, this reported agreement could just be a holding deal for Chelsea in a year where there has been a lot happening off the pitch following the change in ownership, including across the club’s commercial functions. 

“The pretty short changeover of both Commercial Director and Chief Executive at the club in the last 12 months is sure to have impacted their sales process. 

“It is unheard of that a top-six side would still be in the market for their main partner only weeks away from the new season kicking off, dramatically reducing the strength of the negotiating position that the club has – so a short-term deal could be their only solution.”

Further details surrounding the reported Stake deal have yet to surface. However, any front-of-shirt sponsorship agreement must end by 2026 when the league-wide ban is enacted. 

Stake is already accustomed to football sponsorship, currently the front-of-shirt sponsor of Everton FC and had previously worked with Championship club Watford. Harborne concluded that the recent noise surrounding the Chelsea deal has brought exposure to the gambling and casino firm. 

“For Stake, even the news story about the potential of the deal has got people talking about the brand, so the opportunity and positivity of the association for them is clear,” Harborne added. 

“Whether the rumoured fees associated with the potential deal can stack up for them is another talking point, but the volume of the exposure that they will receive globally will be significant and that will be the reasoning for exploring, and potentially taking up, this opportunity above all else.”

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