When Fulham, back in 2002, struck a deal with Betfair to become the first Premier League club to advertise a gambling company, it raised quite a few eyebrows. Questions were raised about how casino sponsorship will influence the integrity of the game and many saw gambling sponsorship as nothing more than a passing trend that won’t stick in English soccer. As it turns out, the Fulham deal only opened the door for a flurry of similar arrangements.
The Scope of Gambling Partnerships in 2020
Fast forward 18 years and half of the Premiership clubs have a gambling company logo on their shirts. In addition to these 10 teams, seven others have various forms of partnership with betting businesses. At the moment, only Brighton & Hove Albion, Sheffield United and Southampton have no connection whatsoever with gambling money.
If you add to the mix 17 Championship clubs with that kind of sponsorships, you get a clear picture of what types of companies dominate the soccer marketing landscape in England. Plenty has changed in the betting world since 2002. In-play betting, tech advancements, and the boom of online slots in the United Kingdom at sites such as goldrushslots.co.uk have made gambling one of the world’s most profitable industries.
It has also created an extremely competitive market where companies look for any edge they can find that can help them reach new customers. This is where EPL steps in as the most popular soccer competition on the planet and global appeal its clubs and players.
Benefits for Gambling Operators
Gambling company’s logos have pretty much taken the place of those of alcoholic beverages that were dominant on EPL shirts for years. Very much alike natural connection between beer manufacturers and soccer, betting providers could on a logical relationship between their services and people who enjoy the beautiful game.
Plenty of soccer supporters enjoy betting on the games and adding a bit extra to the excitement of the match. Having a logo on the shirt of an EPL club provides betting operators with reach and brand awareness that can hardly be matched with any other marketing strategy. This is especially true when it comes to Asian markets. Premier League has experienced unprecedented popularity in the East during the last 20 years.
This is the reason why many of the businesses sponsoring English clubs are a complete unknown to the average UK fan, In fact, only three bookmakers currently sponsoring EPL teams, Betway, Dafabet, and Sportsbet.io, are even licensed in the UK. Most of them are registered overseas, particularly in Asia, many with a clear goal of targeting the Chinese illegal betting market.
Over 100 million tuning in to watch Premiership games every month are a guarantee that investments in these partnerships are well worth the money. It has allowed the operators such as 1xBet or LoveBet to go from virtual unknowns to betting behemoths in the span of a just few years.
Benefits for Clubs
The main benefit clubs receive from gambling sponsorships is obvious – more money. The first thing that catches the eye on the list of the EPL shirt sponsorships is the absence of the betting providers deals with traditional “Big Six” clubs. These spots are still reserved for automotive, finance, and airline giants. Besides, these clubs have numerous other revenue streams way above others in the league, such as gate receipts, replica shirts sales, or lucrative tours overseas.
This forces other mid and lower-tier clubs to find any means they can to remain competitive. This is where gambling operators make their appearance. They are usually willing to pony up way more money for sponsorships than other businesses that are some see as more “ethical”. In the 2019/2020 season alone, these companies have paid an incredible amount of 263.6 million pounds to the PL teams.
To put things into perspective, look at the example of Crystal Palace. Their current deal with ManBetX is six times more lucrative than their previous sponsorship with the GAC logistics company and it’s still one of the cheaper deals in the league. These sponsorships are one of the main reasons why the average salary of the players and managers in the EPL is by far the highest in Europe.
The Backlash Against Gambling Partnerships in the EPL
The gambling sponsorships have become so dominant, it’s almost impossible to watch a game without being exposed to endless ads, campaigns, and ever-present visibility of betting brands. And even though these ads are geared towards adults, there’s no way for underage kids not to see them.
Also, gambling addiction is a very serious problem, and being constantly bombarded with betting promotions only makes things worse. While there’s a ban in place for advertising gambling before 20.30 PM, the logos on shirts provide a convenient way around this. Although it must be said, replica shirts intended for children are always sold without gambling logos.
This has led to a number of politicians, EPL executives, citizen groups, and some of the betting companies as well (Ladbrokes and Betway among others) to call for limiting exposure to gambling advertising. The UK government is currently revising the Gambling Act from 2005 in an effort to minimize the effects gambling sponsorships may have on the children and those susceptible to gambling addiction.
There’s even a suggestion to impose a wholesome ban on all betting advertising on the club shirts. Needless to say, this may have a significant impact on the finances of these clubs and some of them are campaigning against these proposed changes.
The List of Gambling Partnerships in the EPL
- Arsenal – no logo on the shirt, partnership with Vbet and Konami
- Aston Villa – W88 shirt logo
- Bournemouth – M88 shirt logo
- Brighton & Hove Albion – no current betting company affiliation
- Burnley – LoveBet shirt logo
- Chelsea – no logo on the shirt, partnership with 1xBet
- Crystal Palace – ManBetX shirt logo
- Everton – SportPesa
- Leicester City – no logo on the shirt, but has a partnership with Bet365, W88, and BetWay
- Liverpool – no logo on the shirt, partnership with 1xBet
- Man City – no logo on the shirt, partnership with Marathon Bet
- Man UTD – no logo on the shirt, partnership with MoPlay
- Newcastle United – Fun 88 shirt logo, partnership with Bet365 and MansionBet
- Norwich City – DafaBet shirt logo
- Sheffield United – no current betting company affiliation
- Southampton – no current betting company affiliation
- Tottenham Hotspur – no logo on the shirt, partnership with William hill
- Watford – SportsBet.io shirt logo
- Westham – Betway shirt logo
- Wolves – ManBestX shirtlogo