No Head Of Gambling Policy As Premier League Looks Set To Vote On Sponsorships

February 23, 2023
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The UK's Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport has said there is currently no minister appointed to oversee the country’s gambling policy.

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The UK's Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) has said there is currently no minister appointed to oversee the country’s gambling policy.

Paul Scully MP, who was previously in charge of gambling at the DCMS, was moved to the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology in a Cabinet reshuffle announced by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on February 7.

Since Scully’s departure, several news reports have claimed that Stuart Andrew MP has been chosen to fill the role.

Andrew was named as a Parliamentary Under Secretary of State in the DCMS and as a Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Minister for Equalities) in the Department for Business and Trade in the latest reshuffle.

However, the DCMS has repeatedly told VIXIO GamblingCompliance, most recently on Wednesday (February 22), that no appointment has been confirmed.

When the DCMS does announce the appointment of a new gambling minister, it will be the sixth person in charge of gambling policy since the much-delayed Gambling Act review white paper was announced by the UK government in late 2020.

Despite the lack of a government minister in charge of gambling policy, Premier League football teams are set to agree on a deal with the government to see gambling sponsors banned from the front of football shirts, according to the BBC.

The BBC has been told the government’s plan is for the Premier League to agree voluntarily to changes to the front of shirts, instead of gambling sponsorships being addressed in the white paper.

It has not been confirmed if the clubs have voted on this proposal yet.

Betting logos will reportedly still be able to appear in stadiums and elsewhere on club shirts, such as on sleeves.

The Premier League has previously said that self-regulation is preferred to legislation or outright prohibition.

James Grimes, founder of The Big Step, a campaign to remove gambling advertising from football, said, if confirmed, the partial sponsorship ban would be “a significant and hard-fought acceptance of the harm caused by gambling ads”.

However, he added that he “can't trust football and online casinos to stick to it. Football will get an independent regulator because it can't self-regulate. The same logic must apply here.”

“Instead of asking football to ban gambling sponsorship, the government should ban gambling sponsorship,” The Big Step said in response to the news.

It should also be noted that the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Gambling-Related Harm is pushing for all gambling football sponsorships to end, not just Premier League ones.

News of a potential Premier League sponsorship ban has long been discussed by lawmakers and football clubs.

In Summer 2022, a vote on the same issue was supposed to be taken by Premier League clubs but it was delayed.

In October 2022, Jon Don-Carolis, commercial director at Fulham Football Club, said his team, which had just been promoted to the Premier League, is expecting to not be able to sign a new gambling shirt sponsor from the 2023/2024 season.

Currently, eight out of the 20 Premier League teams have gambling companies as the front-of-shirt sponsors. The second most popular type of shirt sponsor is financial services, with five teams wearing shirts with banks as their main sponsor.

None of the current Premier League shirt sponsors are UK-based businesses, meaning there is little if any support from the industry in the country to protect Premier League shirt sponsors.

The story is quite different in the lower leagues, which are more reliant on gambling sponsorships, many of which are from UK-based companies.

For instance, in the past few weeks, Scott Benton, a Conservative member of parliament, called for phasing out sports sponsorships instead of banning them, saying they are key to survival for second-tier professional sports.

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