Football is big business and gambling companies are determined to claim a piece of the pie.
The last few years has involved betting brands taking an increasingly key role in the football industry, from almost monopolizing advertising during televised matches to sponsorship.
It is in sponsorship where perhaps the biggest change has been seen regarding betting and football, with around half of the teams in the Premier League now having a gambling sponsor.
Indeed, a club like Wigan Athletic is now almost an outlier just by the fact the team’s players do not wear a kit adorned with a gambling brand from some far-flung corner of the world.
Research has found that almost 60 per cent of clubs in the Premier League or the Championship have a gambling sponsor on their shirts for the 2018-19 season.
Betway is reported to have the biggest gambling sponsorship in the UK, with the betting brand said to be paying in the region of £10 million a year for its association with West Ham.
Even towards the bottom of the Premier League table, smaller clubs such as Burnley are pocketing around the £2.5million a year mark for their gambling shirt sponsorships.
But the link between betting brands in the UK and football clubs goes a lot deeper than sponsors on shirts.
SkyBet’s link to UK football clubs
Of course, this should come as little surprise when the title sponsor of the Football League is a gambling brand, SkyBet, which is one of the biggest and best in the UK.
Conflict of interest?
SkyBet claims to be the most popular gambling companies among British betting fans and its association with the Football League makes sense on paper.
Lots of supporters like to have a bet on the action at the weekend and the link between SkyBet and one of the country’s major sports broadcasters is worth noting as well.
Sky Sports shows lots of Premier League and Championship matches and it is very common to see advertisements for SkyBet – as well as a lot of other betting brands – during ad breaks.
There are lots of alternatives to SkyBet and this updated list for UK punters provides some of the other betting and casino brands football fans might wish to check out at some point. But what does the increasing link between betting and football industries mean for the future?
Rising concern about gambling in the UK
According to the Gambling Commission, almost half a million people in the UK are classed as problem gamblers, with a further two million believed to be at risk of developing an issue. It is claimed that as much as €1 billion is gambled globally on every English Premier League game
“There is evidence that gambling is becoming ever more normalised, particularly among young people, so that increasingly betting is seen as part and parcel of following and supporting one’s favourite sport or team,” said Gambling Watch UK representative Professor Jim Orford.
Footballers themselves have shown they can fall foul of this, with Joey Barton effectively forced into an early retirement after he was given a long ban for being found to be betting on matches.
Players are banned from betting on competitions in which they are involved but Barton was even placing wagers involving his own team, which can obviously lead to accusations of match-fixing, although the former England international did not play in any of those games.
In the wake of the Barton news, the Football Association (FA) came under pressure given it had a sponsorship deal with Ladbrokes – one of SkyBet’s main betting company rivals in the UK. The FA announced it would terminate the deal with Ladbrokes as a result but the company is still firmly embedded in the British football industry, sponsoring a stand at Burnley, for example. Burnley, of course, were the club where Barton was playing when he was banned for betting.
What does the future hold for betting in football?
It seems unlikely that betting in football is ever going to go away entirely – for millions of people having a wager on the big game is a key part of the experience, whether they win or they lose.
However, it is very possible that the current boom in shirts being sponsored by gambling companies could come to an end in the near future. Labour has called for betting brands to be banned from sponsorship football clubs as part of its plan to tackle a “hidden epidemic” of addiction in the UK.
There is a precedent for this move as alcohol brands were previously extremely common in club sponsorship deals before a change in the law was made to ban this practice.
Bet365 seems to have already started planning for a possible ban in the UK by focusing on Europe, with the betting brand now having a link with a number of top-flight teams in Spain. Other gambling companies could be set to follow suit in the coming months and years, but whatever happens in the future one thing is certain.
Football coped perfectly well before shirt sponsorships from betting brands became so common and if they were to stop tomorrow, the sport would continue to operate in exactly the same way.
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