Popular UK Premier League football club Tottenham Hotspur has just revealed that it has cut all of its ties with its former sponsor 1xBet. The announcement has come mere weeks after the Russian-based gaming and betting operator’s UK-facing website was suspended by the UK Gambling Commission.
Tottenham’s decision to cut the controversial operator loose has also arrived on the heels of a warning from the aforementioned British regulator. The watchdog warned the club (along with Liverpool and Chelsea) that they could all face prosecution and considerable fines if they continue to promote a brand that is no longer licensed to supply gambling services within the UK.
Under a long-term deal inked last August between the ‘Spurs and 1xBet, the operator was named the club’s Official Betting Partner for Africa. Liverpool and Chelsea announced a month beforehand in July that they had signed similar long-term sponsorship agreements with the brand, making it their official global partner as well.
The Russian gaming entity operated in the UK as a white-label partner to betting and gaming tech provider FSB Technology. 1xBet’s UK-facing platform was suspended in August this year, and the UKGC is currently investigating both the operator and its partner FSB for failing to comply with local regulations. It should be noted here that the UK is one of the world’s strictest and most heavily regulated gambling jurisdictions.
UK Clubs Warned by the UKGC
According to a recent report in The Sunday Times, the UKGC has warned Tottenham, Chelsea and Liverpool to end their sponsorship deals with 1xBet as soon as possible. In a letter issued to the trio of football clubs, the regulator said that they could face “unlimited fines and up to 51 weeks’ imprisonment” if they did not cut ties with the contentious bookie.
Since then, Tottenham has been the only club to act immediately on the warning and terminate its deal with the brand. Liverpool has not yet commented on the matter, and Chelsea claims to be monitoring the situation until further notice. The Gambling Commission’s letter to the clubs has come as its first formal intervention amid widespread backlash over football teams being sponsored by the gambling industry.
Commenting on the concerning developments, the Campaign for Fairer Gambling representative Matt Zarb-Cousin says that it is an ‘absolute debacle’ that the clubs have failed to do even basic due diligence checks on 1xBet before signing multi-million Pound deals with the firm.
Probe Reveals Suspicious Activities
1xBet’s troubles first began in Britain when The Sunday Times launched in investigation into its suspicious advertising practices. The newspaper discovered that the brand was actively involved in the marketing of betting on kids’ sports, cockfighting, and even a “Pornhub” casino that boasted topless croupiers. Additionally, The Times also reported that the brand was one of the biggest advertisers on sites and torrent platforms that illegally stream Premier League matches.
The Russian brand’s UK operations were suspended shortly after the investigation was publicised, and its local partner FSB agreed to review its relationship with the operator. 1XBet is already blacklisted in numerous countries, including its homeland, Israel, Poland, and various other nations.
The gambling operator has previously noted that any illicit advertising activity related to its brand should be blamed on its affiliates and not its own team. 1XBet has also claimed that they have taken the allegations against them very seriously, including those that have pegged the firm with promoting on illegal websites. The brand has reportedly launched their own investigation into the matter, but in the meantime, the clock is ticking on Chelsea and Liverpool’s sponsorship decisions.