Men’s soccer clubs find alternatives to game-related shirt sponsors

Betting companies remain among the most common and lucrative shirt sponsors in football, but several clubs are showing there is an alternative by promoting charitable causes.

Football’s relationship to the sponsorship of the betting industry was examined as part of a review of the 2005 Gambling Act, although a possible ban was delayed as changes at the top of government saw the draft white paper on the subject postponed.

Yet despite the two areas being so intertwined, some clubs use their space on the front of the shirt to promote charities and the work being done to support local communities.

Plymouth is an example of this and has worked with its sponsor, food manufacturer Ginsters, to create Project 35, a social action project which aims to tackle poverty in the area.

The 35 represents the percentage of children in this region believed to be living in poverty according to pre-pandemic data and the Project 35 logo features on the front of Pilgrims’ shirts this season.

Argyle business operations manager James Greenacre says the response to the initiative has been “really positive” and has seen supporters getting involved in the project, as well as volunteering their time to offer their support.

“I think first and foremost that what we have done would not be done without the support of Ginsters,” he told the PA news agency.

“By donating this airspace we were able to bring Project 35 to the fore, thanks to this we know we have sold more replica shirts this year than ever before as we have seen the online feedback from supporters in effect saying, ‘oh yeah, I would never have bought a football shirt normally, but I will this year because of what’s in it’.

“For us, by using the shirt and the Ginsters allowing us to use the shirt, we were able to bring Project 35 to the fore.

“It can be a taboo, social poverty, poverty in general can be a taboo subject for some – with this we have supporters from all demographics now wearing the shirt, talking about the project, making a difference.

“People buy the shirt because at the end of the day, the more successful the club is, the more we can afford to put back into the community.”

Wigan, Colchester and Leyton Orient are three other clubs who this season have used their shirt sponsor space to promote the charities and work they do. League One side Derby also announced earlier this month that the NSPCC would feature on the front of their first-team shirts for the remainder of the season.

Football sponsorship is a money-making business, however, and EFL chairman Rick Parry said last year that betting sponsorship was worth up to £40m a year to the league and its clubs. This can be seen in the current season, where eight of the 20 Premier League teams and six of the 24 Championship teams are sponsored by gaming-related companies.

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