English and Scottish clubs brace for £100m+ hit on betting sponsorships

September 24 – The UK government has plans to ban betting sponsors from football shirts as part of its gambling law reform.

Ministers will finalise the proposals in the coming weeks, closing a loophole that allows foreign betting firms to advertise on English and Scottish football teams’ shirts and pitch-side hoardings. With the reform, the authorities want to clamp down on the industry’s hold on the game.

Betting is firmly embedded in the tapestry of English football with nine of the 20 Premier League clubs having betting and gaming companies as their front-of-shirt sponsor as well as another six teams in the Championship this season. All but one of the top flight clubs partner with betting firms. Those deals are estimated to be worth a combined £100 million a year.

The chief executive of the English Football League Trevor Birch described the proposal as “concerning”.

“We’re concerned because finance and sponsorship from the betting sector is an important part of the financing of the EFL,” said Birch. “The figure we would put on it is £40m. If that particular avenue is closed off to us it will have a substantial impact on our finances.”

The reform would also take aim at the white label system that enables overseas betting firms to strike lucrative sponsorship deals via small companies that hold a British gambling licence, without much accountability.

“Life goes on and if it is a short-term hit we have to find an alternative,” said Birch. “Who knows what else is out there in terms of sponsorship that might fill the gap? But it’s also the case that the gambling industry does make an awful lot of money from football. So in some shape or form we think that they should be making some kind of contribution. It could be in a different form to shirt sponsorship.”

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