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New Research Reveals 21% of Teams in Europe’s Top 15 Football Leagues Sponsored by Gambling Firms

West Ham Betway Shirts
joshjdss, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

A new body of research into European football trends has revealed that more than one-fifth of teams in the continent’s highest-rated leagues are sponsored by a gambling firm.

The team at Researchand Markets put in the legwork to detail the astonishing proliferation of betting firms in the beautiful game – although the 21% figure is considerably down on the English Premier League’s current 45% of sides that have gambling brands on the front of their shirts.

Many countries in Europe have started to implement tougher rules on how and where gambling operators can advertise themselves, but of the 244 clubs that the research firm investigated some 51 were sponsored by a betting firm – up 11 on the 2020/21 campaign.

But the actual monetary value of such deals appears to have decreased, with $1.37 billion in revenue generated in 2021/22 – down almost 5% on the previous season.

The Premier League remains the most financed football competition in the world by gambling firms, with the 20 sides raking in a collective $450 million (around £335 million) from such commercial deals – in excess of $200 million more than any other European league.

Ringing the Changes

Business People Holding Up Red Cards

According to numerous media reports, gambling firms will be banned from sponsoring Premier League and EFL shirts as of 2023.

A review into the 2005 Gambling Act – the legislation that governs the UK betting sector – is ongoing, and a white paper into recommendations for improvement is expected in the next few months. That could spell the end for gambling sponsorships in football….at least on the front of shirts, anyway.

“We are pretty sure there is going to be an end to front-of-shirt advertising,” a ‘source’ told the Daily Mail. “Everybody is expecting that. Reformers want more, but a lot of politicians are worried about the lower leagues.

“The Government thinks front-of-shirt will catch the headlines, and it will feel like it has made a bold statement.”

It may mean a stay of execution for gambling ads on the hoardings around the pitch and also marketing within stadiums, and it has not yet been confirmed whether the ban will be for all betting firms or just those based overseas, and who therefore don’t pay any tax in the UK, as has been suggested.

A number of large bookmakers in China and other parts of Asia are able to advertise their services via Premier League teams despite not having a UK Gambling Commission licence – they adopt a ‘white label’ system in which they partner with smaller firms that have the requisite regulatory approval.

It would spell a minor headache for gambling operators, whose ads can appear a reported 700 times per televised game, and would see an enormous amount of money flow out of football – the current deals are thought to be worth a combined £100 million to the clubs involved.

It all means that gambling operators could go the way of tobacco firms, who were banned from sponsoring UK football clubs in 2003. Most have also voluntarily moved away from having alcohol brands as shirt sponsors, with none of the Premier League or Championship sides in 2021/22 having booze logos on their chests.