Gambling advertisements are everywhere in the United Kingdom. You will see them when you browse the web, watch YouTube videos, and read magazines and newspapers. There are ads for sportsbooks, online casinos such as Slot Machine, bingo sites such as Foxy Bingo, and more. The reason why there are so many different commercials and ads is that the number of online and land-based casinos has skyrocketed in the last couple of years. Naturally, this is the result of people being sincerely interested in this sort of entertainment.
It’s hard to watch a football match without seeing the disembodied head of Ray Winston reminding you to gamble responsibly and daytime TV is a haven for peppy bingo mascots straddling the uncanny valley. As you can see, Brits adore football and a lot of them want to use their knowledge about this sport to make an extra buck. Since there are so many people who watch football matches every weekend and attend them, you can see that the base for this kind of business is pretty wide.
Since football is closely tied with gambling in the United Kingdom, we can see that there are a lot of teams in the Premier League, Championship, League One, and League Two that have concluded sponsorships with this sort of company. We are not talking about a new trend. But all of that could be due to change, and football sponsorships will be the first in line for the chop.
During 2024 to 2024 English football season, 6 of the 20 Premier League clubs were sponsored by betting companies (Crystal Palace, Fulham, Newcastle United, Southampton, West Ham, and Wolves). The English Football League, which covers the Championship, League 1, and League 2, was also sponsored by Sky Bet, and they’re just the biggest ones. It doesn’t include the billboard ads, minor sponsors, and endless “sports betting partners”.
A poll conducted in 2024 found that 47% of football fans believe that gambling companies should be banned from sponsoring football teams. 44% believe that gambling advertising should be completely removed from football. We believe that the reason for this sort of opinion is obvious. At the same time, there are many players, mainly Muslims, who rejected to wear this kind of kit at the pitch. You can see that there are a lot of reasons for banning these sponsorships completely from the top four tiers in English football.
It’s worth noting that the poll was commissioned by the Coalition Against Gambling Ads, so it’s not exactly unbiased, but it seems to reflect the consensus and it’s one of the reasons the UK government has been spurred into action. Therefore, you can see that there are a lot of different factors that threaten to remove them from marketing themselves on the football pitch. Because of all of these factors, we can see that some actions will be taken in the future by the government.
A Change is Coming
Toward the end of 2024, Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden announced that the Gambling Act of 2005 was being reviewed to bring it into the digital age, suggesting that there could be some major overhauls with regards to gambling advertising and online gambling in general. We can imagine that some significant clauses and points will be given a new meaning. Therefore, we can see there are a lot of companies who are watching these changes closely.
We have yet to see any changes announced, and it could be some time before we do, but many industry insiders believe that football gambling sponsorship will be one of the first things to be outlawed. It will result in making EPL teams look for a new general sponsor. As you can presume, this is not something that can be described as easy. The reason is that finding a general sponsor means that the company they chose needs to fulfill many standards.
Teams have argued that they need the money these marketing deals can bring, especially after the chaos of COVID, but that’s unlikely to make much of a difference. After all, we saw something similar happen with the ban on tobacco advertising. The tobacco industry pumped a lot of money into motorsport and many argued that the sport would decline without it, but they went ahead anyway. According to what we can see from this example, this is exactly what will happen to gambling companies in the UK.
The health and safety of the public is their only real priority, and if they deem that gambling sponsorships are harmful, which seems to be the case, they could pull the plug. Sure, we can see that there is a high number of studies that have shown the negative impact of gambling addiction on the human brain.
We may also see limits on how often gambling ads can be shown on TV, as well as what shows they are allowed to be displayed on. We can see that this is one of the greatest factors that will determine whether this sort of marketing will be completely banned. Surely, making this sort of decision will not be easy to make.
Whatever happens, it seems that we’re in for a huge overhaul and one that could impact everything from grassroots football to multinational gambling companies. We are sure that there are many other ways they will market themselves in the future. However, this is still a big impact on their revenue.
On the plus side, Dowden has made it clear that the government wants to support football teams and the game in general. During the “Super League” debacle, when 6 of the country’s biggest teams tried to break away to form a new league—provoking football fans nationwide—Dowden stated that “[the government] will do whatever it takes to protect our national game”.
It seems that there will be room for compromise and any changes that are announced likely won’t be implemented immediately or without plenty of warning. Especially with the global pandemic of COVID-19, which had a negative effect on all the industries. Sure, sports will need to look for additional funds to cover their expenses caused by the pandemic. We are sure that the result will be positive for both sides.
The Bottom Line
As you can see, there are a lot of voices who are not in favor of marketing this sort of sponsorship. Since there are so many of them, chances are that we will see this situation will change in the future. However, the pandemic could complicate things a little bit. We will just have to wait and see what will happen.