Gambling and Football – A Conflict of Interests?



This issue has come under the microscope again this week, forcing experts to ask whether football can maintain a long-term relationship with the gambling sector and its key players?

Addressing the Latest Controversies

The latest controversy involves a host of Premier League teams, along with some of their most promising schoolboy players. In simple terms, a number of top-flight sides have used their academy graduates to promote betting sponsorship deals, despite the fact that the players in question are not yet old enough to gamble.

Sides such as Newcastle United and West Ham face a probe and potential crackdown from football and regulatory authorities, after several junior stars were used to actively promote Fun88 and Betway respectively.

This will also be part of a wider probe and investigation, after other EPL clubs were caught advertising betting sites to younger fans, who were then able to access casino games without needing any form of age verification. This revelation could not have come at a worse possible time, with a recent survey suggesting that around 25,000 aged between 11 and 16 are emerging as problem gamblers due to accessible and unregulated gaming channels on social media.

If a number of clubs are found to have exposed younger fans to gambling platforms and experiences, the continuation of private sponsorships may soon become untenable in the EPL.

Why Does this Represent a Conflict of Interests for EPL Clubs?

Despite the actions of the FA and its pledge to promote a responsible gambling message, the influx of gambling money into the Premier League remains beyond their control. In total, gambling and bookmaker firms in the UK currently contribute around £50 million in revenue to EPL teams, with nine sides boasting betting companies as their main shirt sponsors.

Additionally, West Bromwich Albion and Watford have also sold sleeve sponsorship deals to gambling firms, so there's no doubt that clubs are becoming increasingly reliant on betting brands to boost their revenues. This creates a clear conflict of interests, and one that the footballing authorities must tackle directly with club and the UK regulator in order to forge a clear, and ultimately compliant, way forward.

If not, there is a serious risk that the relationship between football and the gambling industry will breakdown, causing both markets to suffer unnecessarily. Beyond this, a failure to take action could also see future governments move to prohibit gambling sponsorship deals in football and other sports, particularly if the UK follows the hard-line example set by Belgian regulators.
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