MP Confident New UK Gambling Act Will Include Soccer Shirt Sponsorship Ban

  • Believes new legislation likely to ban betting firms from sponsoring English soccer leagues shirts
  • While supportive of sponsorships, feels they should have family-friendly focus in soccer
  • Says normalized link between soccer and gambling from very early age leads to betting problems 
  • Spain currently proposing similar shirt sponsorship ban alongside gambling advertising restrictions 
UK Union Jack flag with Big Ben building in background
MP Carolyn Harris says a ban on soccer shirt sponsorship is likely to appear in the new UK Gambling Act. [Image:]

An obvious thing to do

Member of Parliament Carolyn Harris spoke about the likelihood of a soccer shirt sponsorship ban within the new UK Gambling Act, calling it an obvious thing to do. She took to Twitter to warn that “the impact of allowing gambling giants to print their logos on club shirts mustn’t be overlooked.”

As the chair of the UK’s gambling-related-harm all-party parliamentary group (GRHAPPG), Harris is confident the new legislation will prohibit betting companies from sponsoring shirts within English soccer leagues when it is passed this autumn or early next year. Such a ban was recommended earlier this month by a House of Lords select committee, which said the measure should not come into effect below English Premier League (EPL) level before 2023.

Implications of a shirt sponsorship ban

A ban on shirt sponsorship would affect several soccer teams, including nine clubs in the EPL. Based on details of the act, the clubs would no longer be able to display betting companies’ logos on their shirt fronts as well as in other areas, such as their stadiums.

Soccer teams rely on such sponsorships for funds, and the recent coronavirus pandemic looks to have placed added financial strain. According to Harris, the English Football League (EFL) clubs would need to wean themselves off betting company sponsorships, just as they did when dealing with the banning of tobacco advertising in the past.

The UK MP said she feels the government needs to do more for soccer clubs by way of financial support. Stating that she does not have a problem with sponsorship in general, she added that in soccer, it should not involve things that might cause addiction.

sponsorship needs to come from a family organization”

She emphasized: “It’s the messaging that’s really important. It’s a family environment and therefore the sponsorship needs to come from a family organization.”

Harris is sure the Gambling Act will pass with the shirt sponsorship ban included. She said a number of groups have called on UK ministers to focus on this aspect of the sports world. Back in February, anti-gambling groups The Big Step and Gambling with Lives sent a letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson pushing for a ban on soccer sponsorships by gambling firms.

Normalizing gambling for children

The MP stated further that she worries children may consider betting with a sportsbook that is associated with their favorite team to be a show of loyalty. She noted that the association between soccer and gambling has been normalized from a very early age, which can lead to a betting problem later on in life.

association between soccer and gambling has been normalized from a very early age

“Young people grow up believing to become involved in gambling is completely normal without knowing anything about the consequences of when it crosses that line,” she concluded.

Major sponsorship ban in Spain

The ongoing review of the UK Gambling Act coincides with the proposed enforcement of a soccer shirt sponsorship ban in Spain. The Royal Decree on Commercial Communications of Gambling Activities strengthens a temporary shirt sponsorship ban in the country and suggests additional gambling advertising restrictions.

The proposal limits gambling advertising via media outlets to one hour per day between 1am and 5am. It also restricts new player promotions by imposing a ceiling of €100 ($113). To access welcome deals, players must have held an open wagering account for one month or longer.

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