Banning Gambling Sponsors To Cost EFL Dearly

July 07, 2020

- Grant Whittington

Sponsorship deals between big corporations and professional sports teams have become a lifeline to the industry in challenging times. As such, so says the English Football League (EFL) and the UK Betting and Gaming Council, the recommendations related to the possible banning of all gambling sponsorships of teams below Premier League-level is counterproductive and potentially threatening to the survival of the industry.

The proposals related to gambling sponsorships were put to table as part of a recent submission made by the UK House of Lords. According to draft estimates published by the EFL, clubs stand to lose in excess of £40 million annually in the event the proposals were to be enforced.

An already struggling British pro-sports industry is hardly able to afford a financial knock of this magnitude, said the league, and will be completely devastated if the ban were to be enforced to the extent it’s now being suggested.

Ban Won’t Create A Safer Britain

The recommendation is one of a total of 66 recently put to table as part of an initiative aimed at helping the country reform its gambling and betting industries in a more player-conscious manner. The recommendations were published as part of the house’s Gambling Harm – Time for Action report.

A call to ban all gambling sponsorships was just one of the suggestions put to table, but it’s at the same time one of the more serious “remedies” proposed. If passed, the financial stability of all local and professional football clubs will be compromised and forced into a situation of devastating jeopardy, said the EFL in response to the motion to ban.

The league controls a total of three divisions of soccer right below Premier League-level. Some EFL clubs are already struggling to make ends meet, with Wigan Athletic this week having gone into full-on administration as a direct result of a lack of sponsorships combined with current global financial conditions. Banning gambling sponsorships will without a doubt send many more clubs down the same devastating path.

Ban Won’t Solve Any Problems

The EFL has in the meantime said that a push towards a complete ban by 2023 isn’t the answer to Britain’s bad gambling and betting reputation. Instead, the EFL says it believes that a collaborative approach to combat the harm caused by addictive behaviour in general would benefit the local economy and the industry a great deal more than would cutting off a crucial financial lifeline and support. The league at the time also declared itself fully open to working in partnership with the gambling industry as well as government and all other relevant authorities in order to determine the best way forward.

But while the league has declared itself against the proposed gambling sponsorships ban, some gambling operators are, interestingly enough, in support thereof. GVC Holdings, for one, owner of big brands such as partypoker, Ladbrokes and bwin, has said it considers a ban in the best interests of the industry as such a ban would be perfectly in line with its own “safer gambling” initiatives and strategies. GVC last year removed all in-stadium advertising from UK soccer venues.

The Other Side Of The Coin

But not everyone agrees with GVC’s point of view. Betting and Gaming Council CEO Michael Dugher has said that there exists absolutely no concrete evidence connecting problem gambling and problem betting behaviour to advertisements containing gambling content.

Not only does gambling sponsorships keep the sports world afloat financially, said Dugher, but sponsorships also support the ability of television broadcasters to air more sports content the world over than what would have been possible without gambling sponsorships and advertising investments.

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