Football and gambling: A shortsighted alliance or a necessary evil?

6th July 2023

Are gambling and football two sides of the same coin or a dangerous relationship that undermines the mental health of fans and players? This question is becoming increasingly relevant as some Premier League clubs continue to make sponsorship deals with betting shops, despite a voluntary commitment to do away with such advertising on jerseys by 2026.

New sponsorship deals cause outrage

Three Premier League clubs – Burnley, Fulham, and Aston Villa – have recently announced new partnerships with Asian gambling companies W88, SBOTOP, and BK8, respectively. These deals involve placing the bookmakers’ logos on the front of the teams’ jerseys.

This has drawn sharp criticism from the activist group Big Step, which has campaigned to ban gambling advertising and sponsorship in football. The group called the partnerships “shortsighted” and demanded that the U.K. government “immediately step in” and stop the deals.

Big Step argues that gambling harms the mental health of millions of people who love football and leads to addiction and suicide. The group also points out that many of these bookmakers have questionable reputations and use provocative marketing materials, such as offering no deposit bonuses. If all players read this guide, they would know that bonuses are not always profitable. But naturally, almost no one reads such articles.

How clubs and the Premier League react

Clubs that have made sponsorship deals with gambling companies justify that it will help them be competitive in the Premier League and generate additional revenue. Fulham, for example, said its record sponsorship deal with SBOTOP would play “an integral role in keeping the club competitive.”

The Premier League, for its part, stresses that it is the first sports league in Britain to take voluntary measures to reduce gambling advertising. The league also claims that all club gambling partners are regulated and licensed by the Gambling Commission and subject to the rules of the Advertising Standards Authority.

But these arguments do not convince activists and some fans.

The moral and social aspect of the problem

Gambling sponsorship in football is unacceptable and morally unacceptable, many fans and activists believe. They point out that gambling:

– Promote addiction, depression, and suicidal thoughts in the millions of people who love and follow football

– Exploit the weaknesses and vulnerabilities of people looking for an easy way to make money or relieve stress

– undermine the values and principles of sport, such as honesty, fairness, and responsibility

– influence the integrity and results of matches, creating the risk of manipulation and rigged games

– Insult and degrade women by using sexualized and discriminatory marketing material

They are therefore demanding that the UK government take strict measures to ban advertising and sponsorship of gambling in football and to restrict access to gambling sites and apps. They also call on Premier League clubs to abandon their gambling partners for the benefit of their fans and players.