February 17 – With sponsorship of football by gambling firms very much on the radar of UK regulators, Everton have become the first Premier League club to announce they are ending their deal with Kenyan online gaming giant SportPesa.
Signed in May 2017, the deal is in the second season of a five-season term. Heralded at the signing as a record deal for Everton, it was reckoned to have been worth £7 million a year.
SportPesa have agreed to the termination of the contract, said the club. A new main partner will be appointed ahead of the start of the 2020/21 season.
The club said that decision to terminate the contract had “been reached following a comprehensive review by the Club of its commercial strategy in line with its vision and future growth plans.” Polite speak that the club was no longer entirely comfortable with betting company money, a position made clear at the club’s AGM when chief executive, Denise Barrett-Baxendale said that “in an ideal world” they would prefer a “different type of sponsor”.
It also allows the club to get ahead of the game in terms of any likely re-regulation of gambling sponsorship.
“This has been a difficult decision but one that allows us to best deliver on our commercial plan and to grasp the new opportunities now open to us,” said a club spokesperson.
“The Club would like to thank SportPesa for all of the work that has been done together. Our partnership has seen our first team visit Africa on two occasions, as well as former players and Club staff take part in numerous activations in the region. This has allowed us to grow our own footprint in Africa and further strengthen our special relationship with the continent.”
SportPesa, founded six year ago, has grown rapidly and attracted the attention of Kenyan government regulators who have variously imposed an aggressive tax regime and expressed concerns about young people becoming addicted to betting and falling into debt. The government revoked SportPesa’s Kenyan license – along with a host of other betting operators – in September last year. The license is still to be renewed as a battle rages between SportPesa and tax authorities over tax due.
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