Is It Time for Football to Admit That It Has a Gambling Problem?

Football and MoneyThe findings of the government’s consultation into the Gambling Act will be released later this year, and they will certainly make for interesting reading.

All manner of recommendations will be made, and it’s almost certain that plenty of them will be implemented as the betting sector is perceived by some to have got away with regulatory murder for more than a decade.

One of those could well be the banning of gambling sponsorship in football, or certainly a cutting down on the amount of branding that betting firms are allowed to display on the front of kits and around the stadium.

Plenty of campaigners have been calling for a ban for quite some time, and you did wonder if there might be a sort of pre-emptive strike amongst English football’s big clubs to act before they were forced to.

Well, not a bit of it. Ahead of the 2021/22 season, the evidence is damning – Premier League clubs don’t give a monkeys about doing the ‘morally acceptable’ thing.

The Hateful Eight

Football Managers

For the 2020/21 campaign, eight of the twenty Premier League teams decided that they would take the money and be sponsored by a gambling operator.

Were there any changes of heart since the end of the season? Did these clubs want to do something worthwhile and advertise a charity or a value-adding company on the front of their shirts?

The answer, unsurprisingly, is a resounding no.

Eight clubs will once again be adorned by betting firm sponsors this term, and it would have been nine – almost half of Premier League clubs, remember – had Norwich City not withdrawn from their deal with BK8 after they were found to use rather risqué imagery in their marketing materials.

Here’s the eight Premier League sides sponsored by betting firms:

  • Brentford – Hollywoodbets
  • Burnley – Spreadex
  • Crystal Palace – W88
  • Leeds United – SBOTOP
  • Newcastle United – Fun88
  • Southampton –
  • West Ham – Betway
  • Wolves – ManBetX

What is interesting is that, Betway aside, these are not operators that would be considered big names in the UK sector. The majority are Asian-based firms, while are a start-up in the crypto gambling world. Hollywoodbets, by the way, come via South Africa rather than Los Angeles.

It’s noticeable that most of the premium UK brands have pulled their sponsorship from football, and you wonder if that is a precautionary measure as the government’s vultures hover over the industry at a time when new regulatory measures are being considered.

Doing the Right Thing


Of course, the gambling industry is one that is easy to give a good kicking to.

But actually, are the other Premier League clubs accepting sponsorship from morally rich and worthy causes.

Here’s a look at the general industries that are now responsible for partially funding top-flight football in England:

Sector No. of Clubs
Gambling 8
Finance 4
Retail 3
Travel 2
Communications 2
Insurance 1

On paper, there is nothing too sinister about that, but when you consider the actual nature of some of those companies you have to ask are they, from a moral standpoint, any more respectable?

That’s no offence to a firm like FBS, who will sponsor Leicester City in 2021/22. They offer a platform that allows everyone to trade the various financial markets, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

But isn’t trading just gambling at the end of the day? You might not be betting on goals to be scored or matches to be won, but you are gambling on a company having a strong financial year or the value of a certain foreign currency increasing.

When you add into the mix the Championship as well, there’s an increasing number of clubs being sponsored by companies from the cryptocurrency space. Again, there’s no problem with that necessarily, but the crypto sector is one built very much on the ‘get rich quick’ ethos – are we encouraging ‘gambling’ on these digital currencies that are unregulated and not even recognised officially as financial instruments?

Some clubs do away with this model of sponsorship and allow good causes to take up the space on the front of their shirts – Barcelona with UNICEF springs to mind, or Huddersfield when they were jointly sponsored by Yorkshire Air Ambulance and the Kirkwood Hospice last season.

Should we expect football clubs to be socially aware? Don’t they have an obligation to their shareholders too to accept the highest bidding sponsor? As ever in the beautiful game, the picture is muddied by the need to make as much money as possible to remain competitive.