On April 13th, 2023, the Premier League announced that starting from the 2026/27 season, clubs representing the league will no longer be permitted to have gambling sponsors on the front of their shirts anymore.
This decision has been anticipated for years, as rumors had circulated that it would be part of the recommendations included in a new UK Gambling White Paper that was originally initiated in 2020.
While anti-gambling activists acknowledge that this represents a major step forward, they are not fully satisfied since football clubs can still sport gambling ads on footballers’ sleeves, and advertising boards can still display gambling sponsorships.
If you watch any major sports game in the UK, you will be aware that gambling advertisement has now become part and parcel of the viewing experience. In the UK, before and during the game, viewers are often encouraged to bet on the match they are currently viewing. With bookmakers like Bet365 and Ladbrokes dominating the halftime advertisement. You are probably all too aware of acting legend Ray Winstone subtly convincing you to place a cheeky bet.
Anti-gambling Lobbyists for years have argued that not enough is being done to address the issue of problem gambling. The height of this criticism came in 2014 when Ladbrokes were criticized for producing an advert that romanticized the gambling industry. Even Sky Bet have featured multiple adverts with Paul Merson, despite his well-documented issues with gambling.
Gambling sponsorship and sport go hand in hand. After all, punters who bet on sports are most likely watching the action taking place, so it is a marketer’s dream. Plus, given the lucrative nature of the industry, it isn’t hard to see why changes took so long to come into action. Football clubs in the Premier League require major sponsorship deals, and gambling companies are some of the most likely companies to offer such vast amounts of money to appear on the front of a football shirt.
As stated, this doesn’t mean a complete blanket ban on gambling sponsorship for football clubs in England. Clubs will, without doubt, still be paid fortunes to advertise gambling services on the advertisement hoardings. Some speculate that due to the new White Paper being released soon, the Premier League were eager to act quickly to make sure they weren’t hit with stricter regulations than the recent self-imposed ones.
Sports like Formula One depend heavily on gambling sponsorship. You might remember in January, we brought you news of an astonishing 100 million dollar deal between stake.com and Alfa Romeo F1.
The reason the Premier League was targeted is that it is the biggest sporting league in the world, and the amount of vulnerable people potentially watching is likely to be significant. Also, due to the success of the Premier League, they are far more capable of taking the financial hit than other sports are.
Before the pandemic hit the UK, then prime minister Boris Johnson announced that they were going to launch a review into the Gambling Act 2005. This was because since this comprehensive review took place nearly two decades ago, the gambling landscape has evolved significantly, with the invention of online betting and mobile gaming drastically changing accessibility.
The paper’s main goal is to make gambling in the UK as safe as possible, with a focus on helping those who are most vulnerable to problem gambling. It is widely expected that when released, players in the UK will be subject to affordability checks and spending limits, which has the potential to hit the profit margins of UK casinos/sportsbooks considerably.