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New UK Minister To Focus On Betting Deals

February 21, 2020

- Grant Whittington

Gambling partnerships in sport are experiencing a bit of a rough ride following the recent FA Cup scandal involving a number of prominent bookies who having gained exclusive broadcasting rights of certain games, made it mandatory for folks to “pay to play to watch”, even to those not generally into betting on sports. And now that the UK has just elected a new Minister of Sports following a major cabinet reshuffle, there’s no telling what the consequences will be for football and bookies alike.

The fact that Conservative MP Nigel Huddleston is a great deal further down the line than his predecessors when talking experience with bookies and operators will in all likelihood have an interesting influence on how he will ultimately choose to deal with his new increased portfolio of responsibilities. These include not only managing the country’s budding world of competitive sports, but also all aspects of betting as well as Lottery games. This thanks to his official description as the UK’s new Minister in charge of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

Not All Bad

That gambling’s relationship with sport is at present strained is to put it mildly. And this is then the context within which the newly elected MP will be assuming his duties. The fact that former FA Chief Executive Mark Palios could recently be heard proclaiming on national radio that football in the UK needs to urgently wean itself off of gambling sponsorships certainly will not serve the betting industry’s cause either. So viral has Palios’ opinion gone that it will have been near impossible for the Huddleston not to have become aware of the sheer size of the controversy.

But his is not the only point of view to have gained traction in recent times. According to the EFL (English Football League), the relationship between the EFL and gambling operator sponsorship partners has been anything but detrimental to the sport or to integrity in the sport. A spokesperson for the EFL recently made it quite clear that the relationship between the league and leading betting partner Sky Bet has been nothing short of successful and that this is mainly due to the latter’s astute and ongoing commitment towards responsible betting and gaming practises. That gambling sponsorships have a place in the larger scheme of things isn’t a matter in any way in dispute. Its easy to look past the many benefits offered to sports teams and only focus on the dispersed negative elements mainly purported by bookies wanting to mostly ignorantly hone in on exclusive marketing opportunities.

Mind The Overkill Approach

A much better approach than a blanket scrap of all betting partnerships with sports teams would be to simply regulate those relationships with a firmer hand of administration and leadership in governance. Whether the new sports minister elect will prove to be that hand remains to be seen. That the controversy surrounding the FA Cup matches has done the industry a great deal of damage is pretty much a done deal but this certainly doesn’t have to remain ongoing damage in terms of paying the negativity forward and at the expense of nationals sports development.

The FA has since the controversy first broke in January of this year, said that it will on its part review all media rights and partnerships going forward. Government would do well to follow a similar approach of reason and stepped-up management. The way things are looking to pan out right now is equal to throwing the baby out simultaneously with the bath water.

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