Labour Backs Betting Company Ban on Football Shirts

The opposition party has pledged to ban betting companies from sponsoring football shirts to tackle a ‘hidden epidemic’ of addiction in the UK.

Tom Watson, Labour Party Deputy Leader

Tom Watson, Labour Party Deputy Leader

Tom Watson, deputy leader, announced that a Labour government would be prepared to legislate on the issue if the Football Association did not introduce its own ban. He added that children are exposed to gambling from an early age due to the popularity of the English Premier League among viewers under the legal betting age.

Watson’s comments will no doubt increase the pressure on the government ahead of a Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) review into fixed-odds betting terminals and gambling advertising.

Nine of the 20 clubs in the top-flight of English football currently have shirt sponsorship deals with betting companies. Just this summer, deals for high-profile Championship clubs Fulham and Norwich City were also struck. It is reported that deals with betting companies are worth a combined £47.3m for this season alone, with most clubs striking multiple-year deals. In the second and third tiers of English football, a total of 16 clubs have deals with betting companies. In the majority of cases, these companies are using the global popularity of the Premier League to advertise to customers in Asia and elsewhere, and do not conduct much business in the UK.

Shirt sponsorship sends out a message that football clubs don’t take problem gambling among their own fans seriously enough. Tom Watson, Labour Party Deputy Leader

The Football Association already prevents clubs from selling replica shirts and clubwear in children’s sizes that is “detrimental to the welfare, health or general interests of young persons”. This includes gambling products. Labour, however, argue that the rules should extend to first team shirts to address the fact that millions of children watch football either in the stands or on television.

Watson also compared the ban to that imposed on tobacco companies in 2005, which prevented them from sponsoring sporting events. He said: “Just as tobacco companies were banned from sponsoring sporting events and putting their logos on branded goods because of the harm smoking can cause, it’s right that we recognise the harm problem gambling does and take gambling logos off football shirts.”

Crystal Palace and Swansea players compete in a Premier League Match

Crystal Palace and Swansea players compete in a Premier League Match ©The Independent.

Bet365, Betway, Sport Pesa, ManBetX, Fun88, LeTou, M88, Dafabet and Ope Sports all have deals with Premier League clubs, including Stoke City, Everton, West Ham United, Swansea City and Crystal Palace. The Football Association ended its sponsorship deal with Ladbrokes in June this year, citing that it was inappropriate for a governing body to have a deal with a gambling company.

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