Ex-FA Boss Says Soccer Gambling Deals Have ‘Gone Too Far’

  • Mark Palios slammed the link between soccer clubs and gambling companies on BBC Radio 4
  • He said that the demographics of soccer fans are particularly appealing to betting firms
  • The Tranmere Rovers chairman rejected a sponsorship deal with a major gambling company
male celebrating winning a soccer bet
Former FA chief executive Mark Palios has told BBC Radio 4’s File on 4 program that soccer’s links with gambling have “gone too far.” [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Palios hits out on radio

Mark Palios, the former chief executive of the Football Association (FA) and current Tranmere Rovers chairman, says soccer must “wean” itself away from relying on sponsorship deals from gambling companies. 

Palios said the relationship between soccer clubs and gambling companies has “gone too far” during BBC Radio 4’s File on 4 program.

soccer must “wean” itself away from relying on sponsorship deals from gambling companies

The Tranmere Rovers chairman has been adamant that the League One club will never have a gambling sponsor. He says the club rejected a deal from a leading gambling operator in 2019. As part of this deal, the gambling company wanted to install betting terminals in the stadium. 

Palios said: “This is a family club that’s firmly rooted in the community and from our perspective it’s the wrong thing to do to get associated with the gambling industry.”

Working on an individual level

While he admitted that he cannot do anything to change the bigger picture in soccer with regards to these sponsor deals, he said that clubs can do more on an individual level

Palios went on to say that a Tranmere Rovers employee stole from the club to fund their gambling habit. He also said that a number of players are also struggling with gambling addiction. He believes betting companies see the demographics of soccer supporters as being “particularly appealing.”

A report referenced by Palios highlights how the majority of bookmakers in the United Kingdom are located in the poorest areas. The report states that twice as much money is gambled away by people who live in these areas when compared to gamblers who live in more affluent areas.

Organizers don’t see an issue

According to the English Football League (EFL), the relationship between soccer clubs and the gambling industry is fine. 

A spokesperson for the organization said: “The EFL itself continues to have a successful relationship with Sky Bet who, as a responsible, properly regulated bookmaker, recognizes the importance of having the right safeguards in place.”

almost 60% of all of clubs in England’s top two soccer leagues have a gambling sponsor

Unlike the English Football League, the Premier League does not have a central deal with a gambling company. It leaves it up to the clubs themselves to decide on what sponsorship deals they wish to enter into. Currently, almost 60% of all of clubs in England’s top two soccer leagues have a gambling sponsor.

Clubs changing their stance

Earlier this week Everton FC announced that it had decided to terminate its shirt sponsorship deal with betting operator SportPesa two years early. The deal was reportedly worth £7m ($9.13m) per season.

The reason for the early termination is that the club is no longer being comfortable with being linked to a gambling company in this manner.

Changes on the way

The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) is the body that represents most of the bookmakers in the United Kingdom. This organization is exploring the idea of introducing a voluntary ban on accepting pitchside advertising from gambling companies and having these firms as kit sponsors.

The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) is also looking into a deal that allows customers to view FA Cup game live streams if they sign up for an account with certain online gambling sites.