Ban on gambling shirt sponsors could be on the cards

There is no denying that the betting industry has had a dramatic impact on modern-day sport.

When assessing the beautiful game, alongside offering in-play betting, and showcasing live matches on their apps, gambling companies have also been featured prominently on football shirts.

In fact, half of the Premier League’s 20 teams have betting firms on the front of their shirts, further highlighting the impact the gambling industry has made on the sport. But with the government set to update gambling laws next month, could we see a ban on having gambling sponsors on shirts in the near future?

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After being recommended by a House of Lords select committee in 2020 to remove all shirt sponsorship deals with Premier League clubs, there is a strong possibility that new gambling laws could include such a ban.

Although the same recommendation suggested that Championship clubs should be given time to phase out their partnerships with the gambling industry, there are strong reports suggesting that a ban on top flight gambling shirt sponsors is on the horizon.

There is no doubting that football shirt sponsorship is being heavily targeted by online bookies, but there are plenty who feel a ban would be a step too far. For example, a Betting and Gaming Council spokesperson said that all sponsorships “must comply with strict guidelines and safer gambling messaging is regularly and prominently displayed”.

While several companies within the gambling industry will be concerned about the possibility of banning shirt sponsors, the spokesperson also said that the industry “strongly supports the gambling review as a further opportunity to raise standards”.

Could Premier League clubs voluntarily remove gambling sponsors?

While this potential scenario might seem farfetched to some, there have been repeated discussions surrounding the potential voluntary removal of gambling sponsorship deals from all Premier League clubs.

With the government expected to delay the publication of the all-important white paper, a self-regulatory approach has been encouraged by the Premier League, although whether clubs are receptive to idea is largely unknown, especially when the gambling sponsorship ban would only apply to topflight sides.

Should Premier League sides refuse to voluntarily remove gambling sponsors from the front of their shirts, then it is likely to be applied for the 2023/24 season at the very earliest.

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Campaign groups feel ban doesn’t go far enough

With much of the focus being on the Premier League and not on other professional leagues in the country, campaign groups are struggling to understand the effectiveness of such a plan. That, coupled with other forms of gambling-themed advertising still being allowed, has some people hugely concerned.

James Grimes of campaign group, The Big Step, recently told the BBC: “This is welcome, but to remove gambling from shirts while allowing pitch-side advertising, league sponsorship and club partnerships to continue would be massively incoherent.”

Grimes added: “If the government recognises gambling can be harmful, as this step suggests, then it must end all gambling advertising and sponsorship in football at all levels, not just on shirts.”

The Premier League and EFL maintain stance

Ever since the topic arose, the Premier League and the EFL have maintained their belief that there is no evidence to suggest that casual shirt sponsorship deals result in more cases of problem gambling.

With the gambling industry continually looking at ways to solve this issue and regularly implementing features that prevent problem gamblers from returning, both the Premier League and the EFL will be hoping that the industry’s raised standards will suffice.

Without the support of the gambling industry, many of football’s smaller clubs face an uncertain future, with the EFL suggesting that a gambling sponsorship ban would be costly, possibly costing clubs £40 million a year.

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