English Premier League Clubs End Front-of-Shirt Betting Site Advertising

One of the traditional elements associated with sports in Ireland and the UK and especially with football is the sponsorships of football clubs and the prominent displays of sponsors on the front of the club’s matchday shirts. It can now be announced that, in an easily predicted and long-anticipated move, UK Premier League clubs have decided to stop featuring betting sites, bookmakers, and other betting companies on the front of their matchday shirts.

A well-publicised and controversial issue in recent months and years has been that of featuring betting sites and bookmakers on the front of football shirts which exposes millions of children and young adults to their names and logos and makes it popular with youths who support the club. For a while now, betting sites have been waiting to hear whether or not the trend will continue. It has been clear to industry experts and specialists however, that the discussions held by the top English clubs and all those with a say in the matter have only one possible outcome. The clubs could either agree to voluntarily stop featuring betting sites on the front of their shirts, or the UK government would enter the discussion and forcibly ban this, firstly by recommending a ban through its still-to-be-published White Paper on UK gambling, and secondly by implementing the required legislation at a later stage.

What the Premier League clubs did not want to risk, however, was a decision by the UK government to ban betting sites from football shirts altogether. At present, the sponsor features front and centre on the shirt but the logo / name can also be included on the sleeve. Banning betting sites from the front would still allow clubs to reach sponsorships arrangements whereby the advertising on the sleeve continues, albeit the club will likely receive a lot less sponsorship money for this less-than perfect advertising space.

Now that the significant step has been taken through a unanimous agreement by all Premier League clubs, there are some finer details to consider. While this decision means that the Premier League would become the very first professional sports league in the United Kingdom to do something like this voluntarily, it is very unlikely that this would filter down to smaller leagues and clubs, either through choice or through Government intervention. It is undoubted that Premier League clubs won’t be majorly affected by the decision as large companies compete with each other all the time to get the prime spot and fierce bidding wars take place. If not betting sites, the front of football shirts will feature airlines, software companies, sports clothing brands or car manufacturers / car-selling websites. On the other hand, smaller clubs do not see so much interest in their front-of-shirt advertising space, and in their cases betting sites usually are the highest bidders.

Discussing the voluntary agreement, DCMS Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer said:

“I welcome the decision by the Premier League to remove front-of-shirt sponsorships by gambling companies. The vast majority of adults gamble safely but we have to recognise that footballers are role models who have enormous influence on young people. We want to work with institutions like the Premier League to do the right thing for young fans. We will soon bring forward a Gambling White Paper to update protections for punters and ensure those who are at risk of gambling harm and addiction are protected.”

The voluntary decision taken by the Premier League follows an extensive discussion, which involved expert opinions, research, and consultation of all interested parties as well as the DCMS on behalf of the UK Government. It is believed that the Premier League is now leading the discussion with other UK sports and attempting to persuade them to follow in its steps and develop together a new advertising code that would cover responsible sponsorship from betting sites and gambling providers. Meanwhile, betting sites will remain on the front of football T-shirts until the end of Premier League season 2025/2026, which would allow the clubs a three-year grace period to reach the end of their contracts with betting sites and bookmakers without any penalties involved. At present, the decision does not affect Irish football clubs and Irish betting sites, however this may change in the future if the Irish leagues decide to follow suit.

The Premier League made the following statement in relation to the decision:

“Premier League clubs have today collectively agreed to withdraw gambling sponsorship from the front of clubs’ matchday shirts, becoming the first sports league in the UK to take such a measure voluntarily in order to reduce gambling advertising.”

At present, Aston Villa, Brentford, and Newcastle United are some of the 8 Premier League clubs featuring betting sites on the front of their matchday shirts. It is likely that the end of this advertising practice will have a noticeable effect on betting sites in the long run as they are losing a very effective way to reach new customers and prospective bettors. This will be even more problematic after the White Paper on UK gambling is published, as it is likely to propose even further legislation surrounding other forms of advertising such as that on TV, in-stadium, on promotional materials, Social Media etc.

UK Charity Gambling with Lives, who is one of the key players in the campaign for responsible gambling advertising, stated:

“Just moving logos to a different part of the kit while allowing pitch-side advertising and league sponsorship to continue is totally incoherent. Without government action on all forms of gambling ads in football, at every level, online casinos will exploit any voluntary measures and continue to market their products through our national sport.”

Industry experts are continuing to await the publication of the White Paper, which will bring some clarity about what the Government is planning to do next in relation to advertising and other key safer / responsible gambling issue. We will report any relevant news on this topic on our website.