U.K. Gov’t to Crack Down on Betting Firms; 9 Premier League Clubs May Have to Find New Shirt Sponsors

A review of gambling laws by the United Kingdom government may ban football clubs throughout the country from signing front-of-shirt sponsorship deals with betting companies — meaning nine Premier League clubs and numerous others throughout the country’s football pyramid would have to find new sponsors for that space.

U.K. media outlet the Daily Mail is reporting that banning front-of-shirt advertising for football clubs is very likely to be one of the recommendations included in a white paper due to be published sometime this winter as part of a review of the 2005 Gambling Act.

Players from Crystal Palace (in red and blue) and Brentford (in yellow) — both sporting the logos of betting firms on their jerseys — battle in their Premier League match on Aug. 21, 2021. (Photo courtesy PremierLeague.com)

“We are pretty sure there is going to be an end to front-of-shirt advertising. Everybody is expecting that. Reformers want more but a lot of politicians are worried about the lower leagues.

“The Government thinks front-of-shirt will catch the headlines and it will feel like it has made a bold statement.”

— Daily Mail source

The nine Premier League clubs with betting firm logos on the front of their shirts in 2021-22 include:

  • Brentford
  • Burnley
  • Crystal Palace
  • Leeds United
  • Newcastle United
  • Southampton
  • Watford
  • West Ham United
  • Wolverhampton
Players from Southampton (in red and white stripes) and West Ham United (in navy blue) battle during their Premier League match on Sept. 11, 2021. Both clubs would be affected by a ban on front-of-shirt advertising for betting firms. (Photo courtesy PremierLeague.com)

The move would not only affect the Premier League, though, as six clubs in the second-tier English Football League Championship also have betting firms as their main shirt sponsors. The combined total of betting firm sponsorship deals across those two leagues is estimated at £100 million. It would also affect the two biggest clubs in the Scottish Premiership, with Celtic FC and Rangers FC both having deals with betting firms.

Celtic FC (left) and Rangers FC (right) kits for 2021-22, both with betting firms as their main sponsor. (Photos courtesy Footy Headlines, Rangers.co.uk)

Once the white paper is submitted, there is a three-month consultation period before a revised bill goes before Parliament. That means any changes would likely not take effect until 2023.

The review of the 2005 Gambling Act has been underway since December 2020. However, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson appointed a new Gambling Minister, Chris Philp, on Sept. 22, and the Daily Mail reports he is “thought to be keen on reform.”

Labour MP Carolyn Harris, head of an all-party Parliamentary group on gambling-related harm, told the newspaper: “Banning front-of-shirt ads is of course the right thing to do, but it just scratches the surface. We’re bombarded by gambling adverts and that has to stop. Adverts should be completely banned to protect children and prevent harm.”

Digital pitchside boards featuring an advertisement for a betting firm. (Photo courtesy Eleven Sports Media)

The Daily Mail also reports that a wider ban on betting firm advertisements in sports — for example, digital pitchside signage and TV commercials during games — is also under consideration, but less likely to gain support.

A similar law on jersey sponsorships took effect in Spain in time for the start of the 2021-22 La Liga season, forcing several teams to find new sponsors. Some clubs had to start the season with blank shirts, though a few of those have added new sponsors since the league kicked off in August.

Feature photo courtesy 90min.com