The conclusion of the English football season has seen speculation mount as to how the UK government will proceed to reform football’s relationship with gambling.
This weekend, BBC Sport reported that the government was in discussions with the Premier League to initiate an early end to clubs’ gambling/betting sponsorships.
The ongoing delay of the White Paper on gambling reforms has caused concerns that football clubs may renegotiate betting sponsorship contracts for next season.
According to BBC Sport, the pending White Paper will include a ban on gambling sponsorships on the front of Premier League club shirts – (ie principal sponsorships).
The measure had been recommended by the House of Lords Select Committee in 2020, which advised DCMS to adopt a ‘phased-out approach’ to banning football sponsorships, beginning with Premier League clubs.
The Committee recommended that EFL Clubs (Championship and below) should be given time to end their betting sponsorships, as DCMS is aware of funding difficulties a ban would pose to the finances of lower league teams.
The leadership of the EFL, sponsored by Sky Bet, has previously outlined that a sponsorship ban would cost clubs £40 million a year.
Though English football would follow Spain and Italy in outlawing betting shirt sponsorships, the approach has been branded as ‘incoherent’ by UK gambling reform campaigners, who want a guarantee that a blanket ban will be applied across all levels of English football.
Aware of sensitivities, the Premier League has maintained that it prefers ‘a self-regulatory approach’, which it argues ‘would provide a practical and flexible alternative to legislation or outright prohibition’.
As it stands, media observers predict that the ban will be likely applied by the 2023/2024 season ‘at the earliest’ – yet the government aims for the Premier League to advise football clubs to end gambling sponsorships voluntarily.
An additional article by The Sunday Times editorial board supported the BBC’s reporting, stating: “Ministers hope to reach agreement with Premier League football clubs in the next fortnight to remove gambling companies from their shirts.”
Should Premier League clubs disagree with the approach, the government would introduce a ban on gambling shirt sponsorships – however, ‘clubs in the Championship and below would be exempt’.