Aston Villa’s BK8 deal heats up the UK debate on bookmaker sponsorship

January 12 – The expected replacement of Aston Villa’s shirt sponsorship by online bookmaker BK8 has provoked an immediate backlash.

Cazoo, Villa’s current main sponsor, announced earlier this week that they would not be renewing their three-year deal with the club at the end of this season.

“It has been a very strong and successful partnership for both parties and we are proud to have supported the club and raised over £120,000 for the Aston Villa Foundation during this time,” said a Cazoo spokesperson.

The exit of Cazoo immediately put focus on BK8’s new partnership with Villa. BK8 have been criticised for their use of sexually explicit advertising.

In June 2021 Norwich City fans objected to the BK8’s new shirt sponsorship forcing the club to drop its £5 million one year deal just five days after announcing it.

Fans discovered an Instagram channel promoting services to Malaysian customers that promoted ‘sexy baccarat’ and suggestive images of hot dog swallowing contests.

Under the hashtag #hergametoo, fans complained that the soft porn images were offensive, degrading and against the club’s principles.

At the time Norwich City cancelled the sponsorship with immediate effect, apologise to fans that it had “got it wrong”.

Gambling sponsorship of clubs shirts is still a hot debate in football, with the UK Government expected to publish its white paper on gambling reform in February. That is expected to bring a ban on shirt sponsorship by bookmakers. The Premier League and its clubs have sought to get ahead of any UK law making with a proposal of voluntary restrictions on betting shirt sponsorship that they hope will satisfy UK regulators and prevent legislation banning betting and gaming sponsorship completely.

The proposal is for a ban on front-of-shirt sponsorships with existing deals being phased out over three years.

A BK8 deal signed for next season would get in ahead of any regulation.

James Grimes, Founder of the Big Step campaign against gambling sponsorship, told The Telegraph: “This is a tone-deaf partnership in the face of inevitable government action on gambling ads and against a backdrop of mounting fan pressure – which caused the same online casino to be booted out of a club as recently as 2021.”

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