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Gambling... Front and Centre?

28th July 2017

Guest blogger Daniel considers how football club shirt sponsorship by gambling operators might pose an issue for those affected by gambling problems.

Since the 2005 Gambling Act, gambling operators have allocated a large share of their marketing budgets to football sponsorships and commercial partnerships with football clubs. As many as half of English Premier League clubs will go into the 2017/18 football season with a gambling operator as their main shirt sponsor.

Some fans are not keen on their club’s association with gambling brands. Some criticism focuses on the issue of clubs accepting sponsorship money from operators when their players are not allowed to gamble on games themselves. Some criticism focuses on the large amount of advertising for gambling operators which already features during televised sporting events.

This kind of sponsorship is, however, perfectly legal and can be beneficial for both the club and the operator. That being said, several recent cases have highlighted situations where players have been found to have bet on football despite regulations against this, and more where footballers have spoken out about experiencing problems with gambling.

Clubs and operators need to work together to ensure that any such sponsorships are implemented in a socially responsible manner. Operators already contribute to the Sports Betting Integrity Forum (formed in 2012 to combat suspicious betting on sports) and GambleAware, however they also need to promote a responsible gambling message as much as possible.

Some ways to mitigate any possible negative impacts of increased association between sports and betting could include funding education for clubs around sports integrity and responsible gambling. This could be particularly effective at academy level, making sure young players understand their responsibilities and the risks that come both with playing professional sport and with gambling.

There is also scope to educate around problem gambling - how to spot signs of this developing, how to protect people and signpost to further support if needed. Players can be key ambassadors for these messages.

Operators can also look at ways they can help to raise money for charities that are associated with the club – many clubs have their own established charities which give back to the local community. Coupled with a strong focus on messages around responsible gambling, this is an example of how an operator could work to build a positive, long term partnership with a club over time.

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