In a bid to perhaps stay one step ahead of the United Kingdom government, the Premier League is asking its clubs to vote on voluntarily banning sports betting firms from buying front-of-shirt advertising space.
The vote is expected to take place before July 21. The proposal as it stands right now would see no new front-of-shirt sponsorship deals signed with betting firms, and any existing deals phased out over the next three years.
According to the BBC, the league emailed clubs with the proposal on Monday, and they hoped to have a decision within a week. Fourteen of the Premier League’s 20 clubs would have to vote in favour for the move to go through.
The U.K. government began floating the idea of banning betting firms from buying advertising space on the front of football jerseys back in September 2021. The recommendation was believed to be part of a review of the 2005 Gambling Act.
The BBC says that, as of last week, the government hadn’t yet decided on whether it would write a betting sponsorship ban into new legislation. But the voluntary ban by the Premier League “could offer a middle ground for clubs and avert any legislation on a much-debated topic.”
That middle ground could also mean that clubs below the Premier League in the English football pyramid would still be able to sign front-of-shirt deals with betting firms — averting the loss of a revenue source that the English Football League estimates to be in the region of £40 million per year — and that firms could still buy pitchside advertising space at all levels.
In a BBC article from May 2022, James Grimes of The Big Step, a group lobbying against gambling advertising, said the voluntary ban would be welcome, “but to remove gambling from shirts while allowing pitch-side advertising, league sponsorship and club partnerships to continue would be massively incoherent.
“Every young fan should be able to watch their club — in the ground and on TV — without being bombarded by ads for gambling, which we know harms millions, and takes hundreds of lives every year.”
During the 2021-22 season, nearly half of the Premier League’s 20 clubs had betting firms as their front-of-shirt sponsors. Over the offseason, Crystal Palace moved away from a betting firm and signed a deal with car retailer Cinch, but Everton and newly promoted AFC Bournemouth brought betting firms on board.