Football clubs could be banned from creating any shirt sponsorship agreements with bookies according to the Labour representatives. According to them, a future Labour Party government would set about tackling the hidden epidemic of gambling addiction.
They especially underlined the need to protect children from ever-present exposure to gambling. This policy was presented by Tom Watson, Labour deputy leader and is most likely only the first of a range of proposals related to the gambling issue.
The same move will surely produce additional pressure to make the current Tory government provide its own review of the gaming industry. Watson, acting as a shadow minister for sports, culture, media and digital explained that the government under his party would support Football Associate in their own bans on gambling promotion. However, if necessary, Watson stated that the same government would be ready to legislate a formal ban.
Watson believes that football has to do its part in stopping Brittan’s epidemic of addiction to gambling. Now, Watson concludes, shirt sponsorships appear to be a message that the football clubs do not see the issue of gambling among their numerous fans as anything problematic. Instead, clubs put gambling messages and brands in front of viewers and fan of every age. The same is not even restricted to matches, but also applies to highlights packages which are shown on the BBC and commercial television.
Now, out of 20 Premier League clubs, nine of them have shirt sponsorship deals with gambling companies. These clubs include the world-famous Everton, Newcastle and West Ham. All those sponsorship deals in this league are worth a collective sum of £47.3 million in this season alone. Additional 16 clubs playing in the England’s tier two and tier three competitions have similar deals.
In many of these cases, these companies do very little UK business but are using the global appeal of the Premier League to impress customers in Asia and other regions. Currently, the FA forbid youth teams from being sponsored by products deemed detrimental to health, welfare, and interests of young persons, which includes gambling.
Labour claims that the same logic exhibited by FA should be extended to children who are watching football. At the same time, FA has announced that it is ending its deal with all betting companies. This is the reason why it ended its Ladbrokes contract worth a yearly £4m. Watson also pointed to the laws from 2005 which stopped cigarette companies from being sports sponsors.
According to him, just as these companies were stopped from sponsoring sports ventures, the gambling issue should be recognized as harmful. This should be enough for the FA to stop gaming companies from having access to football club sponsorship. Watson showcased results from the Gambling Commission, an industry watchdog that showed that the last month saw an increase in problem gamblers.
The report shows that over 430,000 UK individuals have a gambling problem, which is according to Watson enough for the FA to distance itself from this business. Recently, academics working at Goldsmiths of the University of London found gambling to be inextricably connected to football programs on the TV. It even does not matter if the viewers avoid commercial TV because a study of the BBC’s Match of the Day programme showed a lot of gambling content.
In the three surveyed episodes, the branding and logos of gambling companies were shown for 71% to 89% of the running time. On commercial TV, like the Sky broadcast company, the amount of gambling industry screen time was related to the football clubs that were playing.
For example, a match between Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur, where no gambling companies are sponsors, included 68% of this type of content. However, a game between Liverpool and West Ham features one or another gambling advert for 88% of the programme run time.