Families who lost loved ones to gambling addiction have reacted with anger after the government’s decision to delay its gambling white paper allowed three Premier League football clubs to sign new shirt sponsorship deals with betting firms.
The new deals mean eight of England’s top football clubs now have gambling sponsors on the front of their shirts, while others have separate deals for sleeve sponsorship, kit logos and stadium advertising.
Charles Ritchie, co-founder of the charity Gambling with Lives, which supports and campaigns for families affected by gambling-related suicide, said: “We need an end to all gambling advertising. The delays to the White Paper are shameful.”
Annie Ashton, from Leicester, whose husband, Luke, killed himself last April after he started playing during lockdown, said: “Football is a pathway into gambling addiction for so many people. It’s shocking that the clubs continue to blatantly ignore it.”
Ministers announced in December 2020 that they were reviewing gambling laws, including sports sponsorship, but have delayed the long-awaited White Paper four times. The latest delay was confirmed after Boris Johnson announced his resignation as Prime Minister.
The review has included examining online betting limits, improved protection for online gamblers and gambling advertising. A potential government ban on gambling logos on sports shirts has been mooted for more than a year and a half, but ministers are understood to be now considering a voluntary ban by football clubs.
The Premier League clubs were supposed to vote this summer on a ban on sponsorship on the front of the shirt, but it was postponed. Premier League boss Richard Masters has blamed the “political hiatus” for the delay. It is understood that any ban will be phased in.
Carolyn Harris, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Gambling Related Harm, said: “The stoppage of the White Paper has encouraged the gambling companies to seek new deals with football clubs. It is opportunistic for the gambling companies, who know the writing is on the wall. I’m disappointed because we’re talking about a problem that takes people’s lives.”
Three Premier League clubs, Everton, Fulham and Bournemouth, have agreed new shirt deals with betting operators for the 2022-23 season. Everton announced their “club record deal” with casino and sports betting platform Stake.com in June. It has been reported that the deal is worth more than £10m a year and will run until at least the end of the 2024-25 season.
The badge will appear on the men’s and women’s game shirts. The club ended its key previous partnership with online car dealer Cazoo to secure the new gambling deal. Stake’s global ambassadors include Canadian rapper Drake and Manchester City striker Sergio Agüero.
Bournemouth also unveiled its deal with global betting brand Dafabet in June. It said the deal would provide “crucial revenue”. Fulham announced their sponsorship deal with W88 last month. The club said: “Presence on the shirt will allow the W88 brand to benefit from the global exposure of the Premier League, which is broadcast to a worldwide audience of over 3 billion people.”
The other five clubs with shirt sponsorship deals are Brentford (Hollywoodbets), Leeds United (SBOTOP), Newcastle United (Fun88), Southampton (Sportsbet.io) and West Ham United (Betway).
There has been growing concern over the gambling industry’s links to football. Stars who have promoted gambling firms include Alan Shearer, Robbie Savage, Jose Mourinho and Harry Redknapp, but under new advertising rules introduced from October, gambling firms will no longer be allowed to use celebrities likely to appeal to under-18s.
The industry previously adopted a ban on gambling advertising during live sports that was introduced in August 2019. According to the ban, advertisements must not be shown on television from five minutes before a live sporting event begins until five minutes after it ends, before 9 p.m. watershed. While accepting these restrictions on advertising, the gambling industry has campaigned against a possible crackdown on the sector in the government review. The Observer revealed in May how some of Britain’s gaming giants were quietly lobbying finance officials against an industry crackdown.
James Grimes, founder of The Big Step campaign, which campaigns to end gambling sponsorship in football, said: “Gambling sponsorship has never been more unpopular at clubs and it is tone deaf for the clubs to announce these new deals.” He said gambling companies would want to be associated with football as long as possible because it is “a lucrative and impactful way to market their products”. Matt Zarb-Cousin, the director of Clean Up Gambling, said the white paper on gambling needs. is published as soon as a new prime minister is appointed. He said: “The delay has given gambling operators a great opportunity to not only maintain the current level of promotion but expand it.”
A spokesperson for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said: “We are undertaking the most comprehensive review of gambling laws in 15 years to ensure they are fit for the digital age.
“As we have said all along, we will publish a white paper as part of a review of gambling legislation.”
A spokesperson for the Betting and Gaming Council, which represents some of the UK’s biggest betting firms, said: “The regulated betting and gaming industry provides vital funding to some of the country’s most popular sports, including the English Football League, which receives £40m. .
“The government has previously stated that research did not establish a causal link between exposure to advertising and the development of problem ageing.”