Last month, English Premier League football clubs came to an agreement that will see gambling firms banned from advertising on the front of team shirts. The news was a shock to many, while others have long called for the move and maintain that the ban should go further.
Gambling has a long-standing connection with the sports industry; the two have been inextricably linked for decades and have formed something of a symbiotic relationship. Is this ban a sign that sports could be looking to cut ties with the gambling industry? Let’s take a closer look at the Premier League ban and discuss the potential ramifications it could have.
The Premier League ban in detail
Gambling firms first began sponsoring UK football teams in the early 1990s and quickly became the most lucrative sponsorship choice for clubs around the country.
Currently, eight of the 20 top-flight teams in England have major gambling sponsorship deals, including clubs like Newcastle United, West Ham, and Everton, with gambling branding emblazoned on the front of their shirts.
This is in stark contrast to other European leagues; the French Ligue 1 has two clubs with gambling sponsors, Spain’s La Liga has one, while Serie A in Italy and the Bundesliga in Germany have none.
It’s easy to understand why so many clubs have been eager to partner with gambling companies, as the money they can offer exceeds that of most other options. Gambling sponsorships in the Premier League see clubs net a collective total of around £60m annually.
However, it would seem even these financial rewards haven’t been enough, with clubs agreeing to phase out front-of-shirt gambling ads by the 2026/2027 season, making the Premier League ban the first instance of a UK sports league opting to restrict gambling sponsorships.
While front-of-shirt sponsorships will be a thing of the past, gambling companies will still be able to advertise on shirt sleeves and pitch side boards.
What triggered the move?
The relationship between football and gambling has come under increasing scrutiny in recent years. Critics have pointed to the association between the two as a direct cause of problem gambling cases, particularly among young men.
Campaign groups and activists have long been pushing for change, demanding that the government overhaul gambling regulations to provide improved safeguards for vulnerable players.
The Premier League ban on gambling ads may have been an attempt to pre-empt new regulations set to be brought about as part of a government review of the 2005 Gambling Act, restricting existing adverts in an effort to avoid facing a blanket ban.
The review, published last week, confirmed that it would be the responsibility of sports organisations themselves to decide how to approach gambling advertisements. Whether this decision was influenced by the Premier League’s initial compromise remains to be seen, but it will certainly be welcome news for sports organisations and gambling firms alike.
What will the Premier League ban mean for the gambling industry?
Sports betting is huge in the UK, with a current market value estimated to be north of $5.4 billion. It’s one of the biggest sports betting markets in the world, so it’s no surprise to learn that the country’s biggest sports brand, the Premier League, has long been a target for gambling firms.
The Premier League is largely watched by young men, which is the same demographic that makes up the majority of the country’s sports betting participants. This is no coincidence, and gambling firms will be concerned about losing the ability to advertise to their target customer.
While shirt and pitch-side sponsorship options will remain in place, front-of-shirt adverts are the most prominent and are highly desired by brands and businesses, offering the most exposure to the Premier League’s colossal global audience.
Beyond the obvious financial implications, could the Premier League ban harm the gambling industry’s reputation? Football has long been an ally of the sector, aligning with gambling firms in the face of mounting criticism.
However, the Premier League ban could indicate the organisation’s desire to step back from these often-controversial sponsorship deals, despite the financial benefits they may offer.
Football has been instrumental in the normalisation of gambling in the UK and has helped propel it into the mainstream. If the sport does intend to distance itself from gambling companies, this could signal a wider shift in public opinion, one that gambling firms will be desperate to avoid.
The Premier League ban on gambling ads may have been merely an attempt to appease critics of the industry and to ensure a blanket ban was not enforced. On the other hand, it could indicate a wider change in attitudes towards gambling firms and may be a sign of things to come in the future.