Betting firms are likely to disappear from the front of soccer shirts in the UK, according to a report in Sportsmail, which states the government is almost certain to impose this type of advertising restriction for the gambling industry.
The upcoming ban on front-of-shirt sponsorships for bookmakers will become part of the white paper the government will release this winter. It will affect a number of clubs from the English Premier League (EPL), as well as clubs from the lower leagues. Currently, nine out of 20 EPL clubs feature a gambling sponsor on their shirt fronts.
The government is also considering other options to impact gambling advertising as part of the ongoing Gambling Act 2005 review, including a ban on betting advertising on pitchside hoardings and TV commercials. However, according to people close to the decision-makers, this type of ban is less likely at this stage due to its massive impact on lower league clubs.
The unnamed source close to the review boldly stated that “… there is going to be an end to front-of-shirt advertising. Everybody is expecting that. Reformers want more but a lot of politicians are worried about the lower leagues. The Government (sic) thinks front-of-shirt will catch the headlines and it will feel like it has made a bold statement.”
Besides front-of-shirt sponsorships, all but one club from the EPL and 15 of the Championship sides have partnerships with sports betting firms, a recent study showed, but the Gambling Act review, launched by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) last December, is unlikely to impose restrictions in this direction.
Another reform that is almost certain to become part of the white paper issued by the government by the end of this year or early in 2022 is an outright ban on VIP schemes, as all other measures to date seem to be ineffective to tackle the immoral practice which exacerbates gambling harm.
Changes Unlikely to Occur before 2023
Following the release of the white paper, there will be a period of three months for consultation before the proposed bill goes to Parliament, which means that any change is unlikely to get implemented before 2023, giving time to leagues and teams to make the required adjustments.
Responding to the call for evidence earlier this year, the EPL insisted that no change should be implemented prior to finding replacement revenue for the sponsorship funds lost, noting that there is no link between bookmaker sponsorship deals and problem gambling.
New Gambling Minister Chris Philp, who replaced John Whittingdale and will oversee the completion of the review of the Act, may take a tougher stance on the gambling industry, having campaigned for stricter regulations of fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) even before the £2 ($2.75) stake limit was implemented in 2019. Chris Philp and newly appointed DCMS Secretary Nadine Dorries, who replaced Oliver Dowden, are part of the cabinet reshuffle that began recently.