The recent proposal on banning betting companies from sponsoring British sports teams has given rise to its criticism, primarily coming from the English Football League (EFL). The organisation has said that the sector’s sponsorships contribute more than £40m each season towards the organisation and its clubs.
The ban was one of the recommendations of the UK’s House of Lords in its report, Gambling Harm – Time for Action, which was published earlier this week in an effort to strengthen the gambling regulatory framework in Great Britain. In this report, the recommendation was to gradually phase out sponsorships in clubs below the English Premier League by 2023. The EFL, the main body which oversees the divisions below the English Premier League, has contested this recommendation as it could threaten the financial stability of the clubs across its leagues.
For this season, half of the Premier League clubs are sponsored by gambling companies, together with 17 of the 24 teams in the Championship, also sponsored by Sky Bet. The recent coronavirus pandemic has affected the finances of not only many businesses but also sports organisations due to the imposed lockdown. The EFL is strongly rallying against the House of Lords’ recommendation given their financial difficulties during this pandemic, underlining their reliance on the gambling sector’s financial and material sponsorships.
In an interview, an EFL spokesperson said that pandemic represents the biggest financial challenge in the EFL clubs’ history. He also said that the sector has paid over £40m a season to the League and its clubs, marking it as a significant contribution that ensures the financial sustainability of professional football at all levels. He also underlines that the association between football and the gambling sector is a long-standing one and that the EFL firmly believes a collaborative, evidence-based approach in preventing gambling-related harms.
He also mentioned that this approach must be sympathetic to the economic needs of the sport rather than being a blunt instrument of blanket bans. He also said that the EFL is willing to work with the gambling industry and the government in order to find the best way to solve this agenda. He further mentioned that the EFL has regular dialogue with all relevant stakeholders regarding the ongoing relationship between football and the gambling industry. He stated that the EFL believes that sports organisations can work with both the government and the gambling industry in order to ensure that partnerships are created in a responsible way.
Despite the organization’s opposition, some operators are in favour of the ban. One operator, GVC Holdings, one of the world’s largest betting and gaming groups, said that the plan will integrate well with its own safe gambling strategy. Last July, the company has removed all its advertising from UK football venues as part of its safe gambling commitment.
However, the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) defended the role of betting sponsorships in funding sports. BGC chief executive officer Michael Dugher said that betting does not only provide football with the funding it needs but it also supports TV channel’s ability to broadcast more sports as revenue from betting return to through advertising, media rights, and sponsorships.