How gambling and betting companies have taken over the Premier League's shirts

Joe Hall
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Premier League sport sponsorships
High stakes: Bournemouth and West Ham sponsors Mansion and Betway are just two of the 10 gambling companies who sponsor Premier League shirts

Football fans might have noticed a recurring theme on this year's Premier League shirts — gambling.

More Premier League teams are sponsored by gambling companies than ever before this season, with exactly half of the division's teams displaying logos for online casinos or bookmakers on their shirts.

England's top tier was 10 years old before Fulham became the first club to feature a betting company on their shirt by linking up with Betfair in the 2002/03 season.

In the years since, the online betting industry has exploded and is now represented more heavily on Premier League shirts than any other industry in any previous season.

(Source: Statista)

Natural sport synergy

Online gambling companies, enjoying the benefits of changing bettor behaviour, were freed to plough money into promoting their brands by the 2005 Gambling Act, which made gambling advertising on TV legal for both UK and offshore gambling companies.

As a result, industry advertising grew by 1,400 per cent between 2005 and 2012 according to Ofcom.

Read more: Strength of Premier League brand drives shirt sponsorship revenue across Europe

Football, the most popular sport for bettors after horseracing, has provided companies with a natural home.

"Gaming is the fifth biggest investment category in the Premier League behind sporting goods, financial services, airlines and automotive," Matt House, founder and chief executive of sports marketing agency Sportquake, told City A.M.

"Gambling companies like this space because it's a very, very efficient way to reach their core audience of sports bettors. The most bet upon sports product is football and within that the most bet upon football product is the English Premier League."

Yet despite being one of the few industries with a significant number of representatives on football shirts, betting companies don't regularly appear on clubs competing at the top of the table.

While the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and the two Manchester clubs have the clout to negotiate huge one-off deals with automotive, financial and airline firms for upwards of £20m, clubs such as Bournemouth and Watford are available to sponsor for little over £1m.

"The additional benefit that it provides betting companies with are brand credibility and trust," says House. "So via aligning with famous brands such as Liverpool, Manchester United, Standard Chartered, Nike, Adidas, Wayne Rooney and so forth they are perceived to be credible which is important in the betting industry because it is then perceived that you will pay out on bets."

Global reach

New laws that came into force from the Gambling Act 2014 ruled that betting companies needed a UK gambling licence and must pay a 15 per cent tax on profits from UK customers if they sponsor a team in the country.

Yet that has not prevented Filipino Dafabet from signing a deal with Sunderland, nor the Kenyan SportsPesa from partnering with SportPesa.

House explains that the Premier League's unique global appeal offers companies the chance to advertise on a "multi-market basis".

"If you take a betting company that is active in five to 10 markets, then actually the $5m to $10m they're investing is only $500,000 to $1m per market," he told City A.M.

Gambling sponsors in the Premier League:

  • Bournemouth — Mansion Group, online casino and sports betting, based in Gibraltar.
  • West Ham — Betway, online sports betting, based in Malta and Guernsey.
  • West Brom — UK-K8.com, online casino, based in China.
  • Sunderland — Dafabet, online casino and sports betting, based in Philippines.
  • Stoke — Bet365, online sports betting, based in Gibraltar.
  • Swansea — BETEAST, online casino and sports betting, based on Isle of Man.
  • Hull — SportPesa, online sports betting, based in Kenya.
  • Burnley — Dafabet, online casino and sports betting, based in Philippines.
  • Crystal Palace — Mansion Group, online casino and sports betting, based in Gibraltar.
  • Watford — 138.com, online casino and sports betting, based on Isle of Man.

Future risks

However, recent reports that the government could ban gambling advertising on TV during the day reveals the lurking threat regulation poses to football's reliance on betting sponsorship money.

"Tobacco advertising used to be very prominent in Formula 1, soft liquor used to be very prominent across all sports," says House.

"Tobacco has now been completely banned while the rules around what you can and can’t do with hard liquor are very, very tight.

"There will be similar pressures on betting in the next five, 10, 20 years for sure. Which is why you’re seeing all of this detail on TV adverts saying 'bet responsibly' and 'when the fun stops it’s time to stop'.

"Increasingly as organisations being more grown up about what they can do because they want to be able to promote themselves as freely as possible for as long as possible.

"But the Premier League aren’t going to suddenly say it’s got to stop tomorrow, normally there will be a period of grace given and normally it will be quite a significant period of grace to let people work out of their current contracts."

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