EFL Chairman Rick Parry has stated that EFL research reveals that there isn’t any evidence that ‘sponsorship leads to an increase in gambling or gambling harm’.
Speaking to the PA News Agency, Parry backed the rights of EFL clubs to benefit from lucrative deals with betting operators, following the league’s extension of its longstanding partnership with Sky Bet.
Parry stated: “It’s only fair that there is a way of channelling some of that revenue into sport. So enabling sport to negotiate marketing agreements to get a share of the billions that are flowing in is something I have no difficulty with whatsoever as a concept.
“We’ve commissioned research, we’ve looked extensively and we haven’t seen any evidence that sponsorship leads to an increase in gambling or gambling harm.
“The values of gambling in England have been fairly steady across the decades and there is no direct correlation between sponsorship and gambling harm.
“Nobody wants gambling harm, nobody wants players to become addicted, or indeed non-players. But it is two different issues that tend to get conflated in terms of what we are doing with players and indeed with the non-players.”
As a result of Sky Bet’s extension with the EFL, the operator’s parent company Flutter will invest £20m into research and education, which has been cited as a key factor into social responsibility within football.
Parry added: “Educating players is something that we’ve been doing for at least the last five years and we’ll continue to do more of that.
“Frankly, it is never going to stop individuals from wanting to gamble. It is a fact of life, prohibition doesn’t work, so what you have to do is have a framework, that you educate, you behave responsibly, you do everything you can to minimise harm, but eliminating it is incredibly difficult.
“If we didn’t have Sky Bet sponsorship we would still have players betting – they always have, they always will.
“Our responsibility is to try to make sure that we support and that we educate – it’s not just about punishment. As we’ve seen pretty graphically in Italy recently, it’s not just been about identifying punishment, it’s identifying that some of the players have genuine addiction problems. It’s how you assist in rehabilitation as well as punishment, and there are no magic answers.
“It’s a problem that will continue to exist. We have to try to tackle it and address it, without in any way pretending it’s not there.
“But that said, that absolutely shouldn’t preclude us from entering into responsible and sensible marketing arrangements when gambling operators are making a huge amount of money out of sport, and have been encouraged to do so by successive governments.”
Criticism over football’s relationship with gambling was escalated by the recent bans of Sandro Tonali and Ivan Toney.
Newcastle midfielder Tonali was sanctioned with a 10 month ban after his involvement in illegal betting activity in his home country of Italy.
In Toney’s case, the Brentford talisman was hit with an eight month suspension from playing football for placing large numbers of bets during his career in the lower leagues.
The striker later revealed that he had suffered from gambling addiction at the time of the ban. Both Gareth Southgate and Thomas Frank called on there to be increased support for Toney following the suspension.