<iframe src="https://www.googletagmanager.com/ns.html?id=GTM-P36XLWQ" height="0" width="0" style="display:none;visibility:hidden">

What the Premier League betting sponsor ban means and why it’s happened now

English soccer's top-flight clubs will no longer be allowed to have gambling brands on the front of their shirts from the 2026/27 season. But has the ban gone far enough and what happens next?

20 Apr 2023 Sam Carp

Getty Images

After the Premier League announced a ban on front-of-shirt betting sponsors from the 2026/27 season, SportsPro breaks down the detail and explores whether the decision will have a material impact on clubs, fans and wider sport.

The problem

While the majority of people who wager on sports do so for enjoyment, fans, pundits and campaigners have long argued that the prominence of betting advertisements in sport contributes towards problem gambling. In the same way that people have had issues with tobacco, alcohol and fast-food sponsorship in the past, some critics also argue that front-of-shirt betting deals expose younger, more impressionable followers to a potentially harmful category.

The solution

The Premier League’s 20 clubs have voted to voluntarily remove gambling sponsors from their matchday playing shirts, a move that English soccer’s top flight claims makes it the first UK sports competition to do so. That might be true, but similar measures are already in place for LaLiga and Serie A clubs, although those were imposed by the Spanish and Italian governments.

The catch

Gambling companies might not be able to buy a team’s front-of-shirt sponsorship inventory, but they can still advertise on clubs’ shirt sleeves, training tops and stadium advertising hoardings.

Premier League teams have also been given a generous three-season window to see out any existing partnerships and to start sounding out alternatives, with the new regulation not set to start until the 2026/27 campaign. Some reports have even suggested that clubs can continue to sign new front-of-shirt betting deals until the ban comes in, which makes you wonder how sincere this self-imposed ban really is.

Phil Carling, senior vice president of soccer marketing in Europe for the Octagon agency, believes that the Premier League has opted for “the least-worst option”.

The ulterior motive (because there always has to be one)

The Premier League might try to dress this up as an honourable act of altruism but there could be several reasons behind the decision, which comes at a time when the UK government has been considering a wider ban on betting sponsorship in sport.

Also, the Premier League’s move to withdraw betting sponsors is the latest in a string of measures implemented by the competition since the government shared plans to introduce an independent regulator for English soccer. Two of the most notable have seen it charge champions Manchester City with financial breaches and update its ownership rules to prevent anyone found to have committed human rights abuses from owning a team.

In that context, this could just be another attempt to prove that the Premier League is capable of regulating itself.

The impact

Isn’t as big as it seems. There are eight Premier League clubs – Bournemouth, Brentford, Everton, Fulham, Leeds, Newcastle, Southampton, West Ham – that currently have front-of-shirt deals with betting companies, and the majority of those reside in the bottom half of the table.

According to Carling, those agreements are typically worth UK£4 million (US$4.97 million) to UK£6 million (US$7.45 million) annually to each club, which pales in comparison to the tens of millions of dollars the so-called ‘big six’ teams earn each year from their shirt sponsorship deals. Indeed, the sides outside the European places are typically much more reliant on TV money for the bulk of their income, meaning the revenue hole left by departing betting sponsors is unlikely to be significant.

Plus, with the betting industry now limited to sleeve deals and exposure on advertising hoardings, clubs could take advantage of increased competition for that inventory by driving up their asking price.

“Retaining sleeve sponsorship and secondary partnerships which include LED exposure will still allow clubs to harvest significant revenues from the sector and will have no impact on the bigger clubs,” Carling notes. “The question now is whether the government will be satisfied that elite football has done enough.”

The next problem

Finding replacements. Some clubs have already transitioned away from betting sponsors, with Crystal Palace ditching W88 at the start of this season to team up with online car marketplace Cinch. But generally speaking, clubs outside the top six have historically struggled to attract offers from non-betting brands that match what gambling companies are prepared to pay.

It also comes at a time when some of the bigger clubs, such as Manchester United and Chelsea, are trying to find new shirt partners. That, coupled with the ongoing macroeconomic climate, means commercial teams will be trying to sell in tough market conditions.

The next solution

Some commentators have speculated that cryptocurrency firms could fill the void, but deals in that category have dried up after the market collapsed at the end of 2022. Cryptocurrency brands are therefore less likely to spend as much as they were before and sports rights holders will be more cautious about who they do deals with.

The absence of many truly global brands in the Premier League remains curious given the competition’s prestige, reach and exposure around the world. So perhaps the next solution isn’t simply in an emerging category, but rather in how clubs package their shirt sponsorship rights and how much added value they are prepared to give brands in order to drive revenue.

The bigger picture

Whether out of coincidence or opportunism, it emerged days after the Premier League announcement that the International Cricket Council (ICC) is lifting a kit sponsorship ban on gambling firms for international Test and one-day international matches.

Elsewhere, the Scottish Professional Football League (SPFL) has said it will not follow the Premier League in removing betting sponsors, while Carling claims a blanket ban in the lower-tier English Football League (EFL) would be “catastrophic” for those clubs.

The Premier League might be the most high-profile sports league to date to impose some form of ban on betting sponsors, but it’s difficult to see it being a catalyst for change given how integrated gambling brands have become within sport at large.

“The football bodies have run a powerful lobby arguing that government proposals appear to target football without reference to other sports,” Carling notes. “The question they ask is why is football singled out when all sports have gambling addictions? The financial dependence of many professional sports on gambling is a matter for wider debate, but it is hard to imagine horse racing surviving a blanket ban or a conservative government suggesting it.”

Want this feature delivered directly to your inbox every other Thursday? Sign up to the SportsPro sponsorship and marketing newsletter here.

1 / 1insight articles read

You’ve reached your article limit for this month. Please create a free account to continue enjoying our content.


Have an account?