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Report: Premier League clubs to ban front-of-shirt betting sponsors

Top-flight teams keen to avoid legislation outlawing gambling advertising completely.

30 March 2023 Ed Dixon

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  • Sleeve deals with betting brands to still be permitted
  • Clubs ask for three-year transition period
  • UK government not looking for EFL clubs to take similar action

Premier League clubs are set to agree to ban gambling firms from advertising on the front of their shirts, according to The Times.

The proposal, which would still permit betting brands to sign sleeve deals, will reportedly be discussed at a top-flight shareholders’ meeting on 30th March.

It is expected clubs will support the move in order to avoid government legislation completely outlawing gambling advertising. Eight of the Premier League’s 20 teams have gambling shirt sponsors. Manchester City, Newcastle United and Aston Villa are among the sides that have multiple different gambling sponsors.

A ban on front-of-shirt betting sponsorships has long been mooted, with the BBC reporting last May that such measures were included in a UK government draft whitepaper. However, The Times stated the following month that the government would publish new legislation exempting British soccer clubs from the restrictions.

Proposals to reform gambling laws were then postponed last summer amid a clash within the Conservative party over the content of the plans. There were further delays caused by the changes of prime minister.

A whitepaper on gambling is now due to be published by the government as soon as next month, but The Times reports that ministers have suggested that it will not include shirt sponsorship restrictions if the voluntary agreement is reached. Reports on the voluntary ban initially emerged last July

A final vote on the ban may not take place until the Premier League’s summer meeting in June. It is thought that enough clubs will back the plan if a three-year transition period is included, something that is said to have acceptance on the legislative side.

The Times adds that ministers are not looking for clubs in the English Football League (EFL), which runs the second, third and fourth tiers of English soccer, to take similar action due to the financial implications it would cause.

SportsPro says…

Betting deals can represent a fast, effective way for top-flight clubs to bring in revenue, but the influence of the gambling sector in English soccer continues to be a cause for concern with regards to addiction and marketing to children.

The report suggests that a complete ban on betting partnerships would likely mean Premier League clubs see income cut by between UK£5 million (US$6.2 million) and UK£10 million (US$12.3 million) per season. As has been shown in failed dalliances with the cryptocurrency sector, that level of income is hard to replace at any level. This compromise would allow for those in the top flight to retain existing, less-prominent deals with gambling brands and let lower-tier clubs off the hook.

While Premier League shirt sponsorships are certainly high-profile marketing inventory, if the British government is serious about addressing the issue of gambling advertising then it will need to focus its legislation on the media industry that has been built around sports betting.

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