Potential UK Sports Sponsorship Ban Enters The Spotlight

January 11, 2022
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The debate over whether UK gambling companies should be banned from sports sponsorship is heating up, amid reports that the Premier League will petition the government for leniency.

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The debate over whether UK gambling companies should be banned from sports sponsorship is heating up, amid reports that the Premier League will petition the government for leniency.

A story in The Times newspaper claims that the Premier League, England’s highest tier of professional football, is preparing to ask the government not to crack down on the links between sports and gambling.

Last week, gambling minister Chris Philp said that the government would outline its plans for a reworking of the Gambling Act 2005 in a white paper in “the very near future”.

The Times reported over the weekend that Philp is preparing to meet with representatives from the world of sport to discuss the review this week, and that both the Premier League and the EFL, which represents the second, third and fourth tier of English professional football, plan to ask the minister not to cave to frequent calls to sever the link between gambling and sports.

Campaigners say that shirt sponsorships by gambling companies and a litany of official betting partnerships are a source of gambling harm, particularly because they expose younger fans to gambling brands.

Groups including the 150-member Peers for Gambling Reform group in the House of Lords have recommended a ban on gambling advertising and sport.

With the temperature rising, in late December 2021 industry trade group the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) stepped up its public defence of gambling’s sporting links.

“BGC members are proud to provide financial support to sport in a variety of ways, but it’s also important that this goes hand in hand with our work on promoting safer gambling,” said BGC chief executive Michael Dugher.

The group said that its members prioritise responsible gambling programmes alongside their sponsorship deals and highlighted a code of conduct for football clubs that it helped develop last year.

“As we wait for the government to publish its gambling white paper, I hope that promoting safer gambling continues to be an integral part of the betting and gaming industry’s commitment to supporting sport," said Dugher.

However, a large number of the gambling firms currently sponsoring British football clubs are not members of the BGC and have only an incidental presence in the UK. Instead they aim to advertise brands in international markets where Premier League and EFL games are hugely popular.

These operators acquire licence coverage using white label arrangements that allow third-party firms to bear the compliance burden and risk.

This system is expected to be closely scrutinised by the government as part of the review and any major changes to its structure would have meaningful knock-on effects for football clubs.

There is also new evidence that the general public disapproves of gambling ads in sport.

Pollsters YouGov published research last week that found only 12 percent of people surveyed globally believed that gambling companies are “appropriate for sports sponsorship”.

That figure dropped to just 7 percent for respondents in the UK, the lowest of any nation, compared with 20 percent of those surveyed in France.

Only cryptocurrencies scored lower globally, with car companies polling the highest with a 36 percent approval rating.

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