July 7 – In a bid to wean its clubs off betting sponsors as the club’s main partners, the Premier League has asked clubs to voluntarily support phasing out shirt sponsorship over a three-year period.
The UK government has threatened a blanket ban on shirt sponsorships as it looks at how it will regulate how the online bookmakers promote themselves. The threat is that the sponsorship ban would be immediate and backed by legislation.
There are currently nine out of the 20 Premier League clubs with online bookmakers as their main shirt sponsors. The bulk of the sponsorships are targeted at the Asian markets rather than UK punters and in general are worth between £5-7 million annually for the clubs.
In order to attempt to keep themselves on the right side of regulators, the Premier League in a letter sent earlier this week, is asking clubs to commit to a voluntary ban that would start with the new season, but would allow existing deals to complete their term as long as they expire no later than the 2024-25 campaign.
Clubs have a very short window in which to respond. For the proposal to be adopted league-wide, 14 clubs need to be in favour.
One area that might not be covered by the ban is sleeve sponsorships, while perimeter board advertising and other club betting sponsorships and partnerships are only likely to be lightly regulated.
The key to avoiding potentially prohibitive legislation is a voluntary agreement with the Premier League.
While the prospect of legislation has been on the radar for some time, many clubs have nevertheless chose to retain their betting partnerships, with Everton FC even announcing a new deal with Stake.com covering the 2020/21 season – a move criticised by fans and anti-gambling lobbyists, in particular because Everton previously took the moral high ground in making a big deal of ending a previous shirt sponsorship with online betting firm SportPesa.
The reality is that clubs would comfortably replace betting company shirt sponsorships but the reality is there are too few sponsors out their prepared to pay the freight of Premier League shirt front.
The relationship between the Premier League and the betting business is symbiotic on a number of levels. As one broadcast rights sales executive told Insideworldfootball, “the reality is that the volume of betting on the Premier League in the Asian markets is driving many of the rights fees paid.”
How much impact on making betting safer the removing of the betting sponsorships from shirts will have remains to be seen. If the result is to dramatically drive down betting volumes on the Premier League then the knock on effect could be that it inadvertently impacts broadcast revenues and viewer interest.
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