UK Debate Over Gambling Sports Sponsorships Heats Up

August 5, 2022
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A UK debate over sports sponsorships is heating up as a fan group circulates petitions to have them banned.

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A UK debate over sports sponsorships is heating up as a fan group circulates petitions to have them banned.

Gambling With Lives has sponsored a fan organization, Football Supporters Against Gambling Adverts (Football SAGA), which is urging Premier League, Championship, Scottish Premiership and League One clubs to cancel current sponsorships and reject future deals.

The group includes recovering gambling addicts and family members of gambling-related suicides.

Last month, the Premier League was reported by Sky News to be polling clubs over a resolution that would mean the phasing out of sports sponsorships over three years.

But one betting brand is pushing back, as is the UK’s biggest gambling lobby group.

“We must not forget that sports betting is part of the cultural fabric of the UK and remains a legitimate and popular entertainment pastime,” said Neil Banbury, general manager for Kindred UK.

He was writing in Politics Home, in a post sponsored by the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC).

All the efforts come as UK gambling licensees await a long-delayed government white paper that will likely include some kind of curbs on advertising and sponsorships.

Banbury claims sports sponsorship is “actually a peripheral issue in the wider context of the hard work being done to reduce gambling-related harm”.

He cited the Stockholm-listed company’s “Team Talk” programme, in which its 32Red brand sponsors causes including its Derby County programme which works on men’s mental health projects.

A BGC spokesman cited a recent Gambling Commission statistic which put UK problem gambling rates at 0.2 percent in the year through to June 2022.

The gambling industry supplies sports with “vital funding”, including £40m to the English Football League, he said, citing reports which said a causal link between exposure to advertising and problem gambling has not been established.

But a recent University of Glasgow study suggests that gambling marketing prompted unplanned spending with almost a third of sports bettors, and the severity of problem gambling habits was associated with reporting of unplanned spending.

The study was published in the Addictive Behaviors journal.

The UK is far from the only European country with controversies over betting ads.

Earlier this week, a new German coalition called Alliance Against Sports Betting Advertising said it will lobby for the severest possible restrictions on advertising of betting.

But sponsorships continue.

On Thursday (August 4), the French football club Paris Saint-Germain said it had signed a deal for Asian and African sponsorships with 1xBet, a betting website controversial for its reported Russian ties and presence on multiple blacklists in Europe and Australia.

1xBet also sponsors Spain’s Barcelona club, a top-flight club that is reported to be in €1bn of debt.

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