The EPL facing a ban on gambling sponsorship?

Ties between the English Premier League and gambling companies have had an uncertain future in recent months. Clubs were due to vote on a voluntary ban on shirt sponsorships, ahead of the release of a government white paper on the industry. Yet this has been delayed until at least July 26 due to the departure of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Why are decisions delayed?

The Gambling Business Group, a gambling industry body in the UK, has reportedly already sent the white paper to government bodies for review before publication. This document was originally supposed to come out last year and was later moved to February.

In a parliamentary debate, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) said its new vision remained a priority, suggesting a decision may have already been made. However, recent developments in government, such as the resignation of Boris Johnson and the cabinet reshuffle, have again delayed it. With parliamentary recess scheduled to begin on July 21, publication of this document may have to wait until Home returns September 5.

Changes to gambling sponsorship were cited in September last year. The change was expected to be a catchy headline for the government, which was cited as seeking to be considered hard on the game and its impact. While reformers wanted to do more, the main worry was how it would hurt grassroots sports revenues.

Originally, rumors abounded that the reforms would include a complete ban on shirt sponsorship by gaming companies for EPL clubs. The Guardian said that discussions with EPL clubs are ongoing since. Other suggestions were that, if the sponsorship survived, it could result in a levy. This would fund research, education and addiction treatment.

What impact will this have on the sport?

This could be a blow for EPL clubs. Almost half of them have some form of gambling sponsorship by a betting company. Both Everton and Bournemouth have signed new sponsorship deals for the upcoming season with gambling organisations. However, others like Crystal Palace anticipated the change and ditched former sponsors in favor of outlets.

Another concern is that the changes could impact other leagues. The English Football League has even suggested it could cost clubs around $40 million each year. Although EPL clubs can easily substitute sponsorship with other global brands, this may not be the case for those in lower leagues.

A phasing out of sponsorships is the move proposed by the EPL. For him to be approved, 14 of his 20 clubs would have to vote in favour. This contrasts with the regulations sought by anti-gambling activists, who would also like to ban on-field advertising, social media and league sponsorship.

How severe will the changes be?

The EPL declined to make official statements. However, there is a wide range of voices that have spoken for and against any change. Tony Bloom, a professional player and owner of Brighton and Hove Albion, is one of the few people in the industry to have spoken out in favor of it. Although he said neither he nor his team were against gambling or betting, he thought it was important that children were not exposed to gambling and betting advertisements on players’ shirts during official matches.

Changes to gambling laws have rarely been less sweeping in recent history. In 2018, a row broke out within the Conservative Party on fixed odds betting terminals. This saw the stakes drop from £100 to £2 after the resignation of Sports Minister Tracey Crouch. Many of the other suggestions made at this point should be included in the next white paper itself.