Big sponsorship deals
In the forthcoming 2019/2020 Premier League season, 10 of the 20 teams will have their kit sponsored by a gambling company. League clubs will earn as much as £349m ($436m) from their shirt sponsors, an increase of 10% compared with last season.
Last year, nine teams had gambling sponsors. The 10 gambling sponsors this season will be contributing £69m ($86m) to the teams. The next tier down in English football is the Championship; of the 24 clubs in this league, 17 have kits sponsored by gambling companies.
None of the top six teams in the Premier League have a gambling sponsor. However, such sponsorship opportunities come with a hefty price tag. Manchester United, one of the most recognizable football clubs on the planet, has a deal with car giant Chevrolet worth $80m a year. United’s big rival, Manchester City, has an annual shirt sponsorship deal with Etihad Airways worth £45m ($56m).
The largest gambling company sponsorship in the league is Betway’s deal with West Ham United, which is worth £10m ($12.5m).
Backlash against gambling sponsors
Gambling awareness groups and politicians have triggered a backlash about the massive amount of gambling advertising prevalent in sports. Football, in particular, has gambling ads everywhere from shirt sponsors to pitchside billboards and television ads. There is now a movement to curtail gambling advertising in sports due to the number of young, impressionable people watching sporting events.
GVC Holdings, owner of Ladbrokes, is trying to help bring an end to gambling advertising.
One of GVC’s brands, Betdaq, is the shirt sponsor for Sunderland FC. However, for the upcoming season, it is donating its sponsorship position to the Children With Cancer charity.
Speaking about this move, the company says it is “committed to unilaterally ending all football shirt sponsorship deals with UK teams and banning perimeter board advertising at football grounds, to allow sporting fans to watch their favorite teams without seeing any incentives to bet.”
The Labour Party has pledged to take action against sponsorship deals and advertising. The party’s deputy leader Tom Watson says that despite the claims from gambling companies that they want to behave responsibly, there has not been much evidence of this.
Watson believes that if these companies continue to not act in good faith, strict regulations on gambling advertising will be needed.
Paddy Power and Huddersfield Town FC last week pranked the public, including the FA. They released an image of a new season jersey that displayed the Paddy Power logo in a sash placement on the kit. While this turned out to be a hoax, it shows how gambling companies use jerseys as an effective marketing tool.