Gambling and football are linked in so many ways and there are many who feel these links are damaging in general. Others may not object in principle but instead feel that the ties are just too strong. In recent years the government has tried to restrict the way in which betting companies can advertise and promote themselves and football sponsorship is one area that has been targeted.
In this article, we take a look at gambling sponsorship in the Premier League, in particular focusing on a voluntary agreement by the league to remove sponsorship from shirts. In fact, let’s start right there.
Front-of-Shirt Sponsor Ban
Ban is perhaps the wrong word because, as noted, this is a voluntary agreement that Premier League clubs have settled on. It may be the case that they have jumped before being pushed but either way, in April 2023 it was reported that teams in the EPL had “collectively agreed to withdraw gambling sponsorship from the front of clubs’ matchday shirts.”
For the 2022/23 season, eight clubs had a gambling brand as their primary shirt sponsor for their matchday kit. On the face of it, therefore, this agreement was a big deal and a major step by football to distance itself from gambling. Indeed, it was reported as such by many outlets. However, there are several major caveats to note, chiefly:
- The agreement does not come into force until the start of the 20026/27 season.
- It applies to Premier League teams only, not the other 72 teams in the EFL.
- Does not apply to secondary short sponsors on sleeves,
- Does not apply to billboards during games, training kits or other sponsorship deals.
There is a certain logic to this and so the fact that the agreement won’t come into place for three years makes sense. With so many clubs having already entered into deals with gambling brands and being mid-contract, a transition period was needed. This allows clubs and sponsors to fulfil their contracts and for the Premier League sides to find new commercial partners.
Some may argue that a three-year wait is too long and indeed similar “bans” have been enacted in other countries with minimal notice. Moreover, why is the agreement restricted to the Premier League? The footballing authorities seem to be sending out a very mixed message – essentially gambling is okay within football if the clubs really need the money.
Perhaps even more confusing is that betting brands can still be displayed on shirts by Premier League clubs. Training tops, other clubwear and, most confusingly of all, even the main matchday kit (via the secondary sponsor on the sleeve) can all still display betting sponsors. In addition, the rotating electronic billboards employed by all clubs around the pitch, which arguably provide the most exposure anyway, will still feature bookmakers, online casinos and other gambling businesses.
Premier League Clubs with Front-of-Shirt Gambling Sponsors
At the time of writing, there are still some clubs looking for partners ahead of the 2023/24 season. Therefore we will use the information from the last completed season, 2022/23, to show just how important gambling sponsors are.
- 40% of sponsors were gambling companies (8 out of 20).
- Next highest sector was financial services (25% – 5 out of 20).
- Bournemouth, Brentford, Everton, Fulham, Leeds United, Newcastle United, Southampton and West Ham were all sponsored by gambling businesses.
Only two Premier League sides had a gambling-related shirt-sleeve sponsor in 2022/23. These teams were Villa (Kaiyun) and Wolves (12bet), though we expect this will increase from 2026/27 when the front-of-shirt betting sponsorship exclusion begins. Indeed, many expect it to increase dramatically, with such businesses now likely to pay more for such deals given they cannot be the clubs’ primary sponsor.
Official Betting Partners, Training Kits and Hoardings
As noted, there is far more to football’s gambling ties than just firms that are willing to pay top dollar to appear on the front of a side’s playing kit. In 2016 Liverpool announced a huge deal with BetVictor for the bookie to be their training kit sponsor. This three-year deal also saw the brand, formerly Victor Chandler (among other past names), become the Reds’ “official global online betting partner”.
In general, the biggest sides in the Premier League do not “need” betting firms in the same way that less successful clubs do. They can generally get more lucrative sponsorship deals with more mainstream brands. However, they are all more than happy to top up their bursting coffers with any number of other commercial agreements.
Liverpool’s deal with BetVictor was worth a tidy £15m, whilst all clubs feature major betting brands on their pitchside hoardings, as well as having some form of official betting partner. Anyone who has watched a game of football, either live in the stadium or on television, will have seen the hoardings. Those that have attended a match may well also have passed a betting kiosk within the stadium offering supporters the chance to bet on the game. These are typically offered by the club’s betting partner, with Man United, for example, working with Betfred, owned by lifelong Red Devils fan Fred Done.
Many do not restrict themselves to one such gambling partner and may have several. For example, Man City’s official site currently lists LeoVegas as their “Official Betting Partner in Europe and Canada,” whilst 8Xbet carry out the same role in Asia. They don’t stop there though, also working with Sportium in Latin America and SportyBet in Africa. In addition, Socios are a “Global Partner”, and whilst perhaps not strictly a betting company there are many who would consider them to be not far off.
As we can see, there are many ties between the top football sides in England and a whole host of betting businesses. These brands cover all areas of gambling, with an obvious focus on sports betting. Moves are being made to reduce these links and from 2026 we will no longer see such firms feature as front-of-shirt sponsors. Since 2018 these types of businesses have not been allowed to feature on children’s kits and we may well see stricter rules brought in, either before 2026 or afterwards.
Such moves may be led by the Premier League, whilst they may be government mandated. Equally, as with the sponsorship of kits for under-18s, they may be imposed by the gambling industry, its regulator the UKGC, or advertising bodies. Some feel current rules do not go anywhere near far enough, whereas others believe they are already anti-libertarian and anti-capitalist. One thing is certain though – the debate will rumble on for many years yet.