The English Football League (EFL) have urged the UK government to not ban bookmakers the ability to sponsor football clubs.
This follows the announcement made by the House of Lords committee, who, last week, called to implement a ban on gambling sports sponsorship. They argue that the regulation of gambling is 'soft', enabling 24/7 accessibility to place bets. In addition, their concern surrounds the protection of consumers. The committee proposed 66 recommendations, which do not require legislation, allowing immediate action to take place.
However, this leaves the EFL and its clubs in a vulnerable position as they both heavily rely on the financial investment and exposure from gambling firms.
17 out of the 24 Championships teams currently hold a front-of-shirt sponsorship deal with gambling brands, while the name rights of the Football League are held by Sky Bet. A deal expected to last until 2024.
In response to the House of Lords committee, the EFL have released a statement highlighting their increased vulnerability of its clubs in the wake of Covid-19 and the removal of betting sponsorship will be detrimental to clubs moving forward.
In a statement the EFL said, “The Covid-19 pandemic represents perhaps the biggest challenge to the finances of EFL clubs in their history.”
“With over £40 million (€44.5 million /US$50.3 million) a season paid by the sector to the League and its clubs, the significant contribution betting companies make to the ongoing financial sustainability of professional football at all levels is as important now as it has ever been.”
The committee did recommend that the restrictions surrounding shirt sponsorship from betting companies should not come into effect before 2023 for clubs below the Premier League. What was significant from the committee was there “should be no gambling advertising in or near any sports grounds or sports venues, including sports programmes”.
The review from the House of Lords followed the governments commitment, made in 2019, to review the 2005 Gambling Act to reduce gambling in the U.K.
Within the EFL statement, they indicated that they are happy to work together with the government in their pursuit to reduce gambling among users in the U.K. However, their main concern was that if there is a ban on sponsorship from gambling firms, it would have a negative impact on professional football, as there are many beneficial factors that are a consequence of sponsorship from gambling firms.
The statement continues with, “The League firmly believes a collaborative, evidence-based approach to preventing gambling harms that is also sympathetic to the economic needs of sport will be of much greater benefit than the blunt instrument of blanket bans.
“It is our belief that sports organisations can work with government and the gambling industry to ensure partnerships are activated in a responsible fashion.”
Author: James Parker