Premier League Clubs Agree to Ban Front-of-Shirt Gambling Sponsorship – But Is It Enough?

Premier League Football Shirt With Gambling Sponsor

Credit: Cosmin Iftode / bigstock

Although it’s been anticipated for a while, Premier League clubs have finally agreed to implement a blanket ban on gambling firms sponsorship their matchday shirts.

A post on the EPL’s website has boasted of being ‘the first sports league in the UK’ to voluntarily veto betting sponsors, before going on to reveal that the blackout will begin ‘at the end of the 2025/26 season’ – meaning that its fruits will not be enjoyed until August 2026. Clubs will also be free to sign shorter-term deals with gambling outfits in the interim period.

Why is it being delayed so long? Of course, clubs will have to find new sponsors to replace the gambling outfits that currently adorn the front of the shirts of eight Premier League clubs – two others have betting firms as sleeve sponsors.

But it’s amazing how quickly they act when they end sponsorship deals that are otherwise considered a PR disaster – Norwich City replaced controversial betting firm BK8 with Lotus Cars in the space of just 13 days back in 2021.

The move will bring an end to offshore betting firms, typically from Asia, from advertising to a global audience via the Premier League. Some of those brands, such as Aston Villa’s sleeve sponsor Kaiyun Sports, don’t even have a website available to punters in the UK.

Eyes On

So while shirt-front sponsorship will end in the Premier League in three years time, no word has been given on what will happen to the many other ways gambling firms are able to advertise to children and vulnerable adults at top-flight football grounds.

These days, club sell sponsorship packages on the sleeves of their playing shirts, on advertising hoardings around the ground and in matchday programmes. So the thousands in attendance, as well as many more TV viewers at home, will still be exposed to gambling ads throughout the 90 minutes of play – and usually before the 9pm watershed, too.

It’s also worth remembering that the main broadcaster of footballer in England and much of the UK has its own affiliated bookmaker, who will remain front and centre within broadcasting and sponsorship – Sky Bet Championship, Sky Bet League One and Sky Bet League Two attracting tens of thousands of punters each and every week.

But it’s a start, and you wonder what other sectors will be next on the hitlist for the crusade – in a country where nearly 64% of people are either overweight or obese (yes, you read that correctly), will Dominos Pizza and other fast food chains be banned from advertising in and around football grounds and games?

The key now will be finding morally-acceptable companies to fill the breach of the gambling sponsorship deals – some of those were worth as much as £60 million per year.

Because as horse racing officials have found, finding a deep-pocketed business to cough up as a sponsor in a time of economic struggle is far from easy….

Derby Dilemma

The Jockey Club had made it known to anyone that would listen that they were keen to avoid gambling sponsorships moving forwards – starting with The Derby and The Oaks.

Instead, they wanted firms with a moral compass, built on integrity, innovation and blue chip brilliance.

Sadly, they couldn’t find one of those….and so they’ve gone with Betfred instead.

The car company Cazoo was the former sponsor of the two British Classics until last year, when it announced that it was planning to step away from the races and did not renew their contract.

The Jockey Club searched high and low for a new sponsor prepared to pay the going rate, however – either as a reflection of the state of the economy or the public’s perception of racing – none could be found.

And now they have well and truly come full circle, applauding Betfred and gambling in general. “Betting has been integral to the Derby since its inception in 1780, when even the name of the race was decided on a coin toss,” so said Jockey Club managing director Amy Starkey. “With 1,400 shops across the UK, I’m excited that Betfred will be able to help us promote these prestigious races on high streets up and down the country.”

In fairness to Fred Done and his company, he has pumped plenty of money into racing over the years – Betfred has been the title sponsor of the Cheltenham Gold Cup, amongst other races, so at least Done cannot be accused of opportunism.

But it confirms the old tale: money, as ever, is more appealing than good intentions.