The government is set to ban betting companies from sponsoring football shirts following its review of gambling laws.
Sportsmail understands that banning logos on the front of gambling company shirts is almost certainly one of the proposals included in a white paper to be released this winter.
A broader ban on sports betting advertising – including pitchside billboards and television commercials – is under consideration but is less likely at this stage.
The government should ban betting companies from sponsoring football shirts (Photo: West Ham sponsored by betway on the left, Wolves sponsored by ManBetX on the right)
Newcastle (Fun88, left) and Southampton (Sportsbet.io, right) are two other Premier League clubs with game sponsors on the shirt front
This season, nine of the 20 Premier League clubs have gambling companies as their main sponsor, along with six other league teams. These deals are estimated at £ 100million per year.
A recent study also found that all but one Premier League club partner in some way with betting companies, as do 15 league teams. Such deals could be allowed to continue with MPs keen to protect the finances of poorer clubs.
A source close to the magazine said, “We’re pretty sure there is going to be an end to the shirt front ad. Everyone expects it. Reformers want more, but many politicians worry about the lower leagues.
“The government thinks the front of the shirt will make the headlines and it will feel like it has made a bold statement.”
A review of the 2005 Gaming Law was launched by the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sports (DCMS) in December 2020 and the call for contributions was closed in March.
The government’s white paper – a policy document setting out proposals for future legislation – is expected to be released later this year or early 2022.
Newly promoted Watfords are sponsored by Stake.com on the front of their first team jerseys
There will then be a three-month consultation period before the bill goes to parliament, meaning any changes affecting sports teams are not expected to come into effect until 2023 at the earliest.
A DCMS spokesperson said: “We are currently undertaking a comprehensive review of our gambling laws, including advertising and marketing, to ensure they are fit for the digital age.
“We are committed to tackling problem gambling in all its forms and the work will build on our solid experience in introducing measures to protect those at risk. No decision has been made.
Chris Philp was named the new Minister of Gambling on Wednesday and is said to be enthusiastic about reform, as is the new Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries.
The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Gambling Damage (GRH APPG) released a report last year recommending a ban on sports betting advertising.
Questions and answers
Why is this change happening now?
The Gambling Act was introduced in 2005, but advancements in technology have led to an explosion in betting companies sponsoring the sport, raising concerns about gambling-related damage.
The 2019 government manifesto promised to overhaul the regulations to make them “fit for the digital age.” A vast revision of the laws on gambling was finally launched in December 2020.
Following a call for evidence earlier this year, ministers are now drafting a white paper of proposals – which should include a ban on gambling companies from being sponsors on the front of the shirt.
Will other forms of gambling advertising be banned?
While ministers appear to agree to removing gaming logos from shirts, discussions are underway on the scope of the new regulations.
Both sides are pushing. Reformers say the jersey sponsorship ban would make no sense if the ads still appeared on pitch-side billboards in stadiums and on television. Governing bodies and sports clubs, however, are desperate not to lose a valuable source of income.
What will happen to clubs that are already locked into sponsorship deals?
A shirt front ban is unlikely until at least the 2023-24 season, as any bill is still months away from being submitted to Parliament. Even so, clubs prepared for a rule change by making short-term sponsorship deals or writing break clauses.
In the championship, the teams move away from the sponsors of betting on the kits. This summer, transactions with financial trading companies increased, which should avoid further regulation.
Labor MP Carolyn Harris, chair of the group, said Sportsmail: “Banning shirt front ads is of course the right thing to do, but it’s only scratching the surface.
“We are bombarded with gambling ads and it must stop. Ads should be banned completely to protect children and prevent harm.
Vice President Iain Duncan Smith, the former Tory leader, added: “While I welcome any initiative to reduce advertising on gambling, and removing front shirt ads would be a first step important, there is still a long way to go.
“Ads are everywhere: on billboards, in magazines, online and on TV. The only way to prevent children from being exposed to gambling ads is to ban them. ‘
Last week, Peter Shilton, England’s most capped male footballer, joined campaigners in delivering a 12,000-strong petition to 10 Downing Street.
The 71-year-old former goalkeeper, who had been addicted to gambling for 45 years, handed a letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson and said: “The law must change”.
A sponsorship ban on the front of the shirt would be the biggest change to sports advertising since the UK tobacco promotion ban in 2003.
In an interview with Sportsmail Last year EFL President Rick Parry said the timetable for reforms “could not be worse” given the clubs’ financial difficulties during the pandemic. The EFL’s title sponsor is Sky Bet.
“The last thing we need right now are restrictions on other valuable sources of income because they cannot be changed overnight,” Parry said.
“If not betting, which market should we go to? “
The Premier League responded to the government’s call for evidence earlier this year.
They believe that there is no definitive link between sponsorship and problem gambling and that no changes should be implemented without first identifying how the sponsorship income would be replaced.
James Grimes, who founded the Big Step campaign to combat the relationship between football and gambling, said: “A jersey sponsorship ban would be a welcome and meaningful acceptance of the damage caused by gambling advertising in football, but this one-off measure would be relatively redundant if advertising were still allowed at the sidelines, during matches and online.