EFL Defends Soccer Gambling Sponsorship Deals

  • There are widespread calls to ban gambling companies from sponsoring soccer teams
  • EFL says that all relationships between the gambling sector and soccer are responsible
  • The league explains that gambling sponsorship money is very important now due to COVID-19
  • Many professional soccer clubs are struggling financially due to no fans at games
  • An upcoming review of the 2005 Gambling Act could lead to a ban on gambling shirt sponsors
EFL soccer ball with Sky Bet logo
The English Football League (EFL) is defending the link between soccer clubs and gambling sponsors, saying the relationships encourage responsible gambling and provide much-needed revenue. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Outlining its views

The English Football League (EFL) has defended the relationship between soccer teams and gambling sponsors amid ongoing political scrutiny. 

The EFL published a statement on Sunday in response to calls for a ban on these types of sports sponsorship deals. This soccer body explained that it has open discussions on a regular basis with important stakeholders to make sure that the sport’s relationship with the gambling sector is responsible. 

collaborative, evidence-based approach to preventing gambling harms”

In its statement, the EFL said its relationship with gambling stakeholders is: “long-standing, with a collaborative, evidence-based approach to preventing gambling harms of much greater benefit than that of a blanket ban of any kind.”

The statement went on to outline some of the different ways that responsible gambling is promoted through these deals. It referred to a “highly visible” education and awareness campaign by Sky Bet and the league to emphasize responsible gambling. 

Players from the top three English soccer leagues wear badges on their sleeves that encourage responsible gambling. Of the matchday advertising inventory that a gambling sponsor has, 70% of it goes toward safer gambling messages. 

Financial issues

The statement also highlighted how the gambling sector pays £40m (£52m) every season to both the clubs and the league itself. The EFL believes that this money is more important now than it has ever been to keep professional soccer afloat, as many clubs are struggling financially due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Clubs are missing out on core ticket revenue because of pandemic restrictions. The EFL says there is no roadmap in place for getting fans safely back into soccer stadiums, despite other sectors being able to welcome customers back.

inconsistency is frustrating and perplexing”

These soccer clubs are still meeting their financial obligations despite the lack of help, according to the EFL statement, saying that the “inconsistency is frustrating and perplexing.”

As a result, the EFL wants to protect the important income stream that is gambling-related sponsorship, particularly during the current financial crisis.

Ongoing pressure

For some time, there have been calls from numerous circles to stop gambling companies from sponsoring sports teams. A similar ban is already in place in Italy and potentially on the way in Spain. The concern is that underage and vulnerable people are getting exposed to these pro-gambling messages while watching soccer. 

With an upcoming review of the 2005 Gambling Act, Member of Parliament Carolyn Harris is confident that regulatory changes could bring an end to gambling companies sponsoring the shirts of soccer teams. In order to end these types of partnerships, Harris believes that some sort of weaning-off period would be necessary. 

A House of Lords select committee also recommended such a ban to come into place for the Premier League, but not before 2023.