Premier League Chief Slams Proposal to Ban Shirt Sponsors

  • Relationship between soccer and gambling discussed by parliamentary committee
  • Possibility of a ban on gambling logos on soccer shirts was raised
  • Newly-installed Premier League chief executive Richard Masters against the idea
Premier League badge on a shirt
New Premier League chief executive Richard Masters has slammed proposals to ban gambling companies from advertising on shirts. [Image:]

Parliamentary hearing

As part of a parliamentary hearing on whether soccer clubs in the UK should be sponsored by gambling companies, newly-installed Premier League chief executive has spoken out against such a ban.

The hearing is taking place as part of a promised review over the 2005 Gambling Act, with the last major gambling review taking place in 2001.

parliamentary hearing on whether soccer clubs in the UK should be sponsored by gambling companies

The 2019-20 season has shown that half of all Premier League clubs are sponsored by gambling companies. In the Championship, 17 out of the 24 clubs are also affiliated with operators.

However, there have been some moves to distance this relationship after a ban was made on allowing gambling adverts during live soccer matches last year.

League would “cooperate”

As part of the hearing, the parliamentary committee will speak not just to soccer clubs and sponsors, but also to representatives of the Football Association (FA) and individual leagues. However, newly-appointed Premier League chief executive Richard Masters told The Guardian that he was in favor of shirt sponsorship by gambling companies.

He said he would not support calls for a shirt ban but would still back a review as a whole. He added: “I think this area does need stronger governance, particularly to protect the vulnerable. I don’t think the answer coming out at the end of it should be that football clubs shouldn’t have shirts sponsored by gambling companies anymore.”

Masters also spoke about the long association between sport and gambling. He said that clubs have always abided by the rules, but ultimately sponsorship is decided through the clubs themselves and not the league.

Currently, 10 Premier League clubs have their shirts sponsored by a gambling company. They are: Aston Villa (W88); Bournemouth (M88); Burnley (LoveBet); Crystal Palace (ManBetX); Everton (SportPesa); Newcastle United (Fun88); Norwich City (Dafabet); Watford (; West Ham United (Betway); and Wolves (ManBetX).

Idea gaining momentum

The idea of banning shirt sponsors has gathered momentum recently in the Championship, thanks to a campaign launched by Paddy Power, the sponsor of four clubs in the league.

Through Paddy Power’s “Save Our Shirt” campaign, all clubs play in shirts without the operator’s logo. A recent derby between Newport County and Macclesfield Town was used to highlight the campaign.

During the derby, the company bought advertising not just on the pitch, but offside too. Allowing the ground to be free of gambling advertisements and “given back to the fans.” Paddy Power and other fans of the shirt ban hope it can have the same momentum as the ban on adverts shown between televised matches.

Speaking to the House of Lords’ Gambling Industry Committee, Brigid Simmonds, chair of the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC), said that the whistle-to-whistle ban has reduced gambling advertising on television by 85%. The BGC currently represents around 90% of the betting and gaming industry.

GVC also a fan

GVC is one of the companies that has already taken the decision to withdraw its soccer sponsorship. Kenny Alexander, the company’s chief executive, agreed with the principle that the relationship between gambling and soccer needed to be looked at.

Alexander said: “I think it needs to be seriously cut down. There are probably too many gambling adverts and too much noise about gambling in front of consumers in the UK at the moment.”

clubs are surviving on their sponsorship money and that any withdrawal would greatly affect them

However, while gambling operator Bet365 has welcomed the review, joint chief executive of Bet365 and vice-chairman of Stoke City, John Coates, highlighted that the clubs are surviving on their sponsorship money and that any withdrawal would greatly affect them.

The parliamentary hearing continues.

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