Sports betting has been huge for many years and football has been a national sport for centuries. With the growth of online betting, it was inevitable that gambling companies would become commercially involved in the game. This is exactly what happened in recent years in England, Scotland and across Europe.
Ever since the early 2000s, the names and logos of major gambling companies such as Bet365, Ladbrokes, Betfair and Betway have been appearing on stadium, jerseys and the half-time commercials around the UK.
The sponsorship deals with the clubs now reaches into dozens of millions of pounds per year in value for online bookmakers. According to most reports, both the bookies and the clubs have been making major dough from the deals in place.
The Natural Symbiosis
The natural symbiosis that exists between the sportsbooks and the football clubs in the UK is unavoidable. The bookies live from ans placing bets on their favorite sports events; what better way is there to reach the sports fans than directly through the stadium and jersey commercials?
This is why more gambling companies are approaching football clubs with offers of multi-million Pound deals. According to the experts, this kind of approach seems to be working like a charm for the bookies. Clubs, such as West Ham United, are certainly not complaining at making millions of additional revenue yearly.
The Ethical Issues
Of course, sports betting is not exactly within the spirit of sports, creating an ethical dilemma. The FA forbids players from betting on matches and banned Joey Barton for 18 months after he breached those rules. It could be said that even promoting sports betting sites is unethical as gambling should not be something which sportsmen support.
With so much money at stake, it is hard to expect any club to simply say no to these deals. Considering the regulatory bodies allow such partnerships, most managers will jump at the opportunity to create a deal with a major gambling company.
Match fixing is an issue not caused by bookmakers; predominantly, betting syndicates are the source of malevolence. As a matter of course, all bookmakers proactively inform football authorities of suspicious betting activity and use sophisticated software programs as part of the detection process. It should be remembered that there is no benefit to bookmakers in match-fixing, just a cost so it is in their interests to fight the crime.
FA Breaks Ties With Ladbrokes
Despite things being clear and ethical, the Football Association recently decided to pull out of a deal with Ladbrokes. The bookmaker was a long-standing partner of the FA and worth £4m per year. A three-month investigation into whether the deal was appropriate, decided a sports betting company should not be a major sponsor.
The FA subsequently announced it is severing all ties to Ladbrokes and other betting companies. Nor will it be entering into similar deals in the foreseeable future. The representatives of FA publicly thanked Ladbrokes for the years of cooperation and partnership, as well as their understanding on the issue of the changing policy toward gambling.
On the other hand, the EFL has no plans to end its’ betting sponsorship deal. Sky Bet remains a valued partner and while they understand the FA rationale, the league sees no conflict in the partnership.
What the Future Holds
While the FA pulled out of its deal with Ladbrokes, clubs are not following suit. Most European clubs and leagues continue to openly associate themselves with bookmakers. Meanwhile, more gambling companies are entering the sports markets by the day.
Considering the expanding online gambling market, we can expect companies in other spheres of online gambling, such as bingo, to also start making some deals with football clubs. You can read more here.
The 20 Premier League clubs now have at least one gambling sponsor, with little sign of a change in policy. Just as Motor racing and cricket were synonymous with tobacco companies, football is inextricably linked with betting. That isn’t going to end anytime soon.