Betting sponsorship dominates all other sectors at the moment in football. More than half the Premier League and Championship sides currently have betting companies as their main sponsorship partners- appearing on shirts, advertising and websites.
The football industry sat up this week when Labour's deputy leader Tom Watson said that betting companies could be banned from sponsoring UK football teams. The ban, which could come about under a Labour government, would include stopping signing shirt sponsorship agreements between clubs and bookies. The purpose of this proposal would be to protect young children from gambling exposure. The policy is seen as a push to curb the influence of gambling companies.
This is exerting pressure on the current government to finish its own review of the problem. According to Watson, the Labour government would encourage and support the Football Association in implementing its unique ban. But, it was also prepared to provide it as legislation if necessary. Watson believes that the UK football has to play its role in stopping the spread of an epidemic of addiction to gambling.
Labour believes that shirt sponsorship emits a message that clubs do not take the gambling problem seriously. Instead, they put gambling in front of all of their fans, regardless of age. This applies to matches, but also broadcasts that are regularly shown on BBC as well as commercial television.
Together, the shirts deals in the Premier Leaguealone are worth over £47 million in this season alone. An additional 16 teams in England’s third and second tiers have these deals, often with companies that do a relatively small amount of business in the UK. Instead, these companies are using the Premier League popularity in Asia and elsewhere to gain new customers.
This year Championship teams like Preston, Queens Park Rangers, Norwich City, and Bentford signed deals with bookmakers.
Currently, the Football Association stops youth teams from having clothing that showcases products that are deemed problematic to the development of young individuals. These products also cover gambling so now Labour argues that the same FA logic should also apply to children watching football.
FA announced last month that it was stopping any sponsorship deals with betting firms. This included the termination of a Ladbrokes contract valued at £4 million on a yearly base. Watson also made a comparison to the law from 2005 that bands cigarette companies from sponsoring sports teams or events. Here, the argument is that gambling must be recognized as harmful in the same way cigarettes were recognized as something which can cause harm.
This should, according to Watson, lead to gambling logos come down from football kits. The statement of the Labour representative also included a quote from the Gambling Commission that showed the number of people with gambling issues rise to 430,000. Watson argued that this alone should convince the FA to distance itself from gambling.
A recent study conducted at the University of London showed that gambling is linked to watching football. Here, even those who do not watch commercial TV cannot avoid the gambling industry branding. The analysis of the BBC’s Match of the Day showed that gambling branding or logos appeared on the screen for around 85% of the time.
On the commercial Sky Channel, researchers found that during live broadcasts of matches between teams with no gambling affiliation, gambling companies still had screen time of about 68%. But, in the case of matches between teams which do have gambling branding on their kits, the screen time for the gambling industry was over 88%.
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