Ending a long controversy
The UK government is finally ready to bring an end to the drawn-out saga involving gambling sponsors in the English Premier League (EPL).
prohibit gaming companies from securing front-of-shirt sponsorship for all 20 EPL teams
A soon-to-be-released white paper on gambling reform that was first expected during former Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s tenure is not expected to call for a banishment on all gambling sponsorships in sports. However, it will prohibit gaming companies from securing front-of-shirt sponsorship for all 20 EPL teams.
Eight teams currently employ front-of-shirt gambling sponsors and would be forced to find new partners if the vote passes.
The future of EPL gambling sponsors
The idea of the government and the Premier League itself banning gambling sponsors has been floated heavily for the past year or so.
Ex-PM Johnson had a majority of the plan agreed to before he stepped down from office on July 7 of last year. His immediate replacement, Liz Truss, showed little interest in the matter during her 44-day tenure before she, too, stepped down.
the new culture minister could need time to get up to speed
Now, with new PM Rishi Sunak in position, and despite a recent reshuffling of his cabinet, the highly anticipated white paper should be ready for a review in a few weeks. Outbound gambling minister Paul Scully said the new culture minister could need time to get up to speed before the white paper can be publicized.
Last summer, it was reported that teams would support a ban on gambling sponsors if certain criteria were met. The teams wanted a three-year transition period to ensure that their books were not flipped on their heads and they had adequate time to find new sponsors. They also wanted recognition from the government that they were taking on financial loss and could not support lower soccer leagues to the same degree.
Last spring, 20 English Football League (EFL) and non-league teams wrote to the government calling for a ban on betting sponsors. An anti-gambling group also made its voice heard in the summer calling for a similar restriction.
Objections to a ban
A discussion on gambling reform has been in the works since as early as 2020. Even now that it seems as close as ever, there are still several major problems present.
The biggest roadblock involves the teams that currently enlist gambling sponsors. Invoking a ban immediately could significantly hurt these teams’ finances and lead to a ripple effect that harms the lower tiers of English soccer.
“The commercial reality is that to teams outside the top six, such sponsors offer clubs twice as much financially as non-gambling companies,” Aston Villa’s fan consultation group said in a letter after meeting the Villa CEO Christian Purslow in January.
Another problem involves the future of promoted teams. Middlesbrough, currently third in the Championship, has been sponsored by Unibet for years. Their arrangement would not only be put into jeopardy but outright outlawed, should the club achieve promotion to the EPL this season.
While the drama continues to swirl, the heat is being turned up on the pitch. League leaders Arsenal regained a two-point lead over second-place Manchester City and still has a game in hand. According to FanDuel, however, City (-110) is still expected to win the league, while the Gunners are just behind at +100.
Manchester United is only five points off the top and could also stick its nose in the title race. Tottenham, Newcastle United, and the surprising Fulham squad are all challenging for the final Champions League spot, but surprisingly, eighth place Liverpool is the sportsbooks’ pick to secure that spot.
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