The Premier League’s self-imposed ban on betting sponsorships is two years away, and both bookmakers and clubs are looking to make the most of the time left. Recent weeks have seen several deals clinched with widely recognised and lesser known brands.

Against this backdrop, the UK’s extensive gambling reform lobby maintains long held concerns about the potential negative impact of gambling advertising in sports. The potential for sports marketing to influence people with problem gambling tendencies and to normalise betting among younger audiences are common worries.

“Too much advertising around football”

GambleAware, one of the UK’s biggest gambling harm prevention and treatment charities and the organisation responsible for overseeing distribution of industry research, education and treatment (RET) funding, has been one of the biggest voices in this regard.

Following a plethora of betting sponsorship deals signed by Premier League clubs over the past two weeks, GambleAware has published the results of a survey into public perception of gambling marketing. The results do not appear pretty for the betting sector.

The survey found that 67% of respondents felt there is ‘too much gambling advertising’ and a further 66% are concerned about the impact advertising has on children. As noted above, the latter is a concern repeatedly raised in recent years, particularly during the Gambling Act review from December 2022-April 2023.

Zoë Osmond, Chief Executive of GambleAware, said: “Millions of people across the country have been coming together this summer, excited to watch the Euros. However, our research shows that most of them feel there is too much gambling advertising in the media and around football.  

“Exposure to gambling advertising normalises gambling, and makes it seem like just “harmless fun” without showing the risks of gambling addiction and harm. This is why we have published our new report, to call on the next government to do more to regulate gambling advertising, particularly around sport where children and young people can see it.”

The sporting context

English football has a long-standing connection with the betting industry, particularly in the case of sponsorship. At one point, nearly half of the Premier League’s 20 clubs had a betting partner, whilst the English Football League (EFL), encompassing the second, third and fourth divisions of the football pyramid, has a long relationship with Sky Bet.

Campaigners dreams were not realised, however, in either the Gambling Act review White Paper – finally published last year after two-and-a-half years in development with little mention of sponsorship save a Code of Conduct – nor the Premier League’s vote to phase out front-of-shirt betting deals from season 2026/27, but keep instadia ads and sleeve deals. 

Concerns have again flared recently in the context of new betting deals being signed. Wolverhampton Wanderers and Newcastle United both maintain deals with BetMGM, but perhaps more significant are Wolves’ deal with DE.BET and Crystal Palace’s deal with Net88, which garnered some criticism on social media.

Football supporters group the Football Supporters Association has conducted its own research on the matter, finding that 73% of fans are concerned about the amount of gambling ads and 66% believe betting sponsorship in football should be banned outright.

David Rose, Deputy Chief Executive of FSA ,stated: “Our survey data shows a large majority of fans are concerned about the prevalence of gambling advertising around football, whether that’s shirt sponsors, pitch side hoardings or on TV coverage. 

“Our partnership with GambleAware helps us to highlight those concerns, and allows us to show supporters where they can get help if they feel like their gambling has become a problem.”

It is important to consider sports finances in this debate, however. There is a reason that leagues and teams are keen to engage in commercial deals with betting firms – these deals are very lucrative.

Whilst the Premier League can rely on sponsorship revenue from various sources, coupled with merchandise and ticket sales and its valuable media rights arrangements, the local leagues of English football, as well as other sports aren’t as fortunate.

The EFL has not been very receptive to the prospect of a betting sponsor ban due to the financial support these deals offer its clubs, many of which face financial difficulties. 

Meanwhile, rugby league gains a lot of financial support from betting, and UK sports businessperson Barry Hearn warned about the potential financial impact of a ban back in 2021.

Finding the right balance between these competing stakeholder opinions will not be easy, and with the Gambling Act review not soothing concerns a reinvigorated debate in the coming years is not an unlikely possibility.

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