UK Government to Ban Betting Sponsorships in Pro Soccer

English Premier League teams with front-of-shirt sports betting sponsorships could soon have to ditch the agreements with the government reportedly set to introduce a ban as part of a review of the Gambling Act 2005. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

New laws in the works

Soccer goes hand in hand with sports betting in the UK, and that partnership has ramped up over recent years. Nine of the English Premier League’s 20 soccer teams have front-of-shirt sponsorship deals with betting companies this season. However, a government review into the nation’s gambling laws could soon see that relationship change.

The UK government is currently reviewing the Gambling Act 2005, with plans to publish its proposals in a white paper by the end of 2021 or early 2022. According to a Wednesday report from Sportsmail, officials intend to include a ban of sponsorship agreements between betting firms and soccer teams among their list of proposals.

operators may still have the option of advertising via pitchside boards or TV commercials

Media reports suggest the measure will most likely only impact front-of-shirt sponsorships. This means operators may still have the option of advertising via pitchside boards or TV commercials. Regardless, any changes will not come into effect until 2023 at the earliest.

A big change for UK soccer

In total, 45% of the Premier League’s teams have front-of-shirt sponsorship deals with betting companies this year. Among others, this includes Leeds United, Watford, Brentford, Newcastle United, and West Ham United. Meanwhile, all but one of the league’s 20 teams have a betting deal in some form or another.

Gambling opponents in the UK have argued that sethering ties between the nation’s favorite sport and gambling could help in the fight against addiction. As reported by Sportsmail, James Grimes, founder of the Big Step Campaign, described a potential ban as a “welcome and significant acceptance of the harm caused by gambling advertising in football.” He even urged the government to go one step further and ban other forms of betting advertising in the sport.

In contrast, proponents of gambling advertising in soccer have argued that the industry provides UK leagues with vital revenue. In response to the government’s call for evidence earlier this year, Premier League officials argued that there is no definitive link between sponsorship and problem gambling. League representatives urged the government not to implement change unless they could find a replacement for the sponsorship revenue.

Other reform on the way?

As part of its review of the Gambling Act 2005, the UK Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport is reportedly considering a string of changes to the nation’s gambling law. In addition to a ban on gambling advertising in soccer, the government will also mull staking limits for online casino and a possible prohibition of controversial loot boxes in video games.

should have done more to protect the site’s customers

Added to this, the UK Gambling Commision’s (UKGC) powers in regulating the industry are also under review. On Wednesday, MPs published the results of an inquiry into the regulator and its role in the collapse of Bet Index-owned sports betting website Football Index. Officials determined that the body should have done more to protect the site’s customers in the two years leading up to the crash.

The UK’s new Gambling Minister Chris Philp confirmed that the findings of the Football Index investigation will feed directly into the ongoing Gambling Act review. Meanwhile, a group of MP’s called the All Party Betting and Gaming Group has launched its own investigation into the UKGC with the hope of providing evidence for Gambling Act reform.

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