Tuesday, 14 July 2020

New Gambling Act Could Ban Football Shirt Betting Sponsorships


A new Gambling Act could ban betting companies as football shirt sponsors, according to MP Carolyn Harris.

Harris, the Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Gambling Related Harm has spoken out against football shirt betting sponsorships and has said that one of the “most obvious” things to do with a new Gambling Act is to ban football shirt sponsorships.

First reported by The Guardian, Harris suggested that she was confident that a new Gambling Act will ban shirt sponsorships within the English Leagues when it’s passed later this year or early next year. Currently, nine of the 20 Premier League clubs are sponsored by gambling companies.

Many English Football League clubs are already facing financial issues due to the COVID-19 pandemic but the ban of football shirt sponsorships will add further strain. However, Harris has said the clubs need to “wean” themselves off the sponsorships in the same way they had to when tobacco advertising was made illegal.

She told the Guardian: “I think the government need to do more to support football clubs in terms of finances. I’ve got no problem with sponsorship but it needs to be something that is far more family-friendly instead of things that can cause addiction. It’s the messaging that’s really important. It’s a family environment and therefore the sponsorship needs to come from a family organisation.”

She later stated that betting firm logos appearing on football shirts “normalises” gambling to children, saying: “It’s subliminal isn’t it? Even though you might have a whistle-to-whistle ban, you still get logos around the stadium, you see it on the shirts continually.”

She continued: “It’s the loyalty thing for kids that really worries me. Kids do see it as being loyal to their football club to use that bookmaker for gambling. FIFA 2020 replicates [reality] entirely. If your team has a gambling logo, on the game it shows that gambling logo.

“From a very, very early age, we’ve normalised the association between football and gambling. This is where we get this problem in later life. Young people grow up believing to become involved in gambling is completely normal without knowing anything about the consequences of when it crosses that line.”

Spain’s Football Shirt Sponsorship Ban

Harris’ comments come after the Spanish government banned gambling companies from sponsoring teams from the country’s La Liga football league. The newly-introduced ban will reportedly affect eight teams in the league.

The new rule was introduced as part of a wider set of measures by Alberto Garzón, the Spanish Minister of Consumer Affairs. Other rules include banning gambling companies from being allowed to sponsor stadium names or anything associated with teams, as well as an overall ban on advertising related to football.

According to Sportspromedia, Garzón’s ban comes after Spain recently introduced its Royal Decree On Advertising which only allows for a four-hour advertising window for betting companies across all media but does not authorise exposure outside of the timeframe.

The House Of Lords Report

The news also comes after the House Of Lords Select Committee on Gambling recommended a ban on football shirt sponsorships in its Time For Action report earlier this month. As reported by the BBC, the cross-party committee analysed the impact of the UK’s gambling industry for the report and have called for an end to shirt betting sponsorships.

The Committee’s 192-page report warns that the government needs to do more to prevent gambling-related harm and outlined a series of suggestions the government should take, including a review of the Gambling Act 2005.

In the report, the Committee states that there should be no gambling advertisements “in or near any sports ground or sports venue” and no ads in “sports programmes”. However, the Committee believes that the ban “should not take effect for clubs below the Premier League before 2023. A similar flexibility should be allowed in the case of other sports.”

The Committee argues that the restrictions should not apply to horse racing or greyhound racing, and that such restrictions would not harm Premier League clubs but could “have a series effect on smaller clubs”. The Committee’s recommendation reads:

“We, therefore, think they should be given time, perhaps three years, to adapt to the new situation. They would not be allowed in that time to enter into new sponsorship contracts with gambling companies, but any existing contracts could continue until they terminate, and clubs would have time to seek alternatives sources of sponsorship.”

Gambling And Football Shirt Sponsorships Debate

There has been a long-standing debate over gambling football shirt sponsorships and campaigns have been calling for an end to the sponsorships for years. Earlier this year, we reported that problem gambling campaign groups The Big Step and Gambling With Lives called on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to end all football betting and gambling shirt sponsorships.

Paddy Power, one of the UK’s leading sports betting operators, also called for an end to football shirt sponsorships alongside the launch of its new Save Our Shirt campaign which saw the bookmaker remove all of its branding from the football kits of its sponsored clubs. The campaign was heavily criticised, particularly because Paddy Power launched it by introducing a fake football kit for its sponsored clubs which was covered in the bookmaker’s logos.

Last year, popular online casino and betting site 32Red launched a responsible gambling campaign in which it displayed responsible gambling messages on the kits of its sponsored football teams. Some of the messages included “Play responsibly”, “Keep gambling fun”, “Never Chase Losses”, and “Set Deposit Limits”.

There have already been numerous changes to sports betting and football games. Earlier this year, the Betting and Gaming Council announced it was considering implementing a voluntary ban on shirt sponsorships as well as pitch-side advertisements.

Meanwhile, last year, a whistle-to-whistle gambling advertising ban was implemented. Under the ban, gambling companies are prohibited from showing gambling advertisements during live sports broadcasts on television before 9 PM in the UK. However, the ban begins five minutes before the match kicks off and five minutes after it finishes, and it does not apply to horse racing.