EPL to Eliminate Gambling Sponsorship from Matchday Shirt Fronts

The EPL — possibly to duck UK regulators — is removing gambling sponsorships from its matchday kit fronts after 2025-26, in a move met with mixed reviews from industry critics.

Apr 14, 2023 • 15:52 ET • 4 min read
Tony Bloom Brighton EPL
Photo By - USA TODAY Sports

English Premier League clubs announced this week they would withdraw gambling company sponsorships from the front of matchday jerseys after the 2025-26 season, although gambling sponsorships will still be possible on shirt sleeves and at pitchside.

Currently, eight EPL clubs have legal sports betting operators as shirt sponsors, with some of the sponsors including Betway, Fun88, Dafabet, and SportsBet. Clubs will be able to maintain these sponsorships — and even sign new deals with betting firms — until this ban takes effect.  

Government pressure?

Teams in Spain and Italy's top club leagues are prohibited from having gambling sponsors on shirts... but that is due to government-imposed restrictions. The EPL, however, is voluntarily reducing its exposure to online sports betting sponsorships — and is the first UK sports league to do so. The UK government’s pending white paper, however, might have provided some impetus for the move.

The government is imminently due to publish a white paper on gambling regulations, which is likely to lead to more restrictive legislation relative to gambling sponsorships. There is speculation that the Premier League agreed to voluntarily withdraw gambling-sponsored shirt fronts in a deal to avoid an outright ban on gambling relationships. 

Based on comments from both the Premier League and Britain’s Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport Lucy Frazer, it seems likely a bargain was struck. 

“The vast majority of adults gamble safely, but we have to recognize that footballers are role models who have enormous influence on young people, Frazer said. “We want to work with institutions like the Premier League to do the right thing for young fans.”

Meanwhile, the Premier League released this as part of their statement: “The announcement follows an extensive consultation involving the League, its clubs and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport as part of the Government’s ongoing review of current gambling legislation.”

Mixed reviews

Most clubs were taking the decision in stride. Even Tony Bloom, a well-known poker player and sports bettor, felt the move was appropriate, Bloom, Brighton’s owner said, “I don’t think having gambling sponsorship on shirts is good. But I understand the gambling companies pay best so it’s a difficult decision for clubs to turn them down.” 

Not everyone, however, was placated by the move. James Grimes, founder of the The Big Step thought it was a “huge step.” Although Grimes, whose organization is seeking to end all football and betting sponsorships, also noted that,” Just moving logos to a different part of the kit while allowing pitchside advertising to continue is totally incoherent.”

Meanwhile, Matt Zarb-Cousin, director of Clean Up Gambling told Express Sport, “This is a welcome concession, but it also amounts to a confession of the damage relentless gambling advertising is doing to those experiencing gambling problems, and children whose perceptions are influenced by it.”

U.S. may learn the hard way

While the UK is trying to reign in the relationship between sports leagues and gambling companies, the U.S. has done little to restrict these relationships. 

The U.S. is a relative new player to legalized sports betting. Other than Nevada, few states had any experience with sports betting prior to 2018. As a result, the U.S. has few federal statutes. Meanwhile, individual states have a patchwork of regulations, and few that govern the relationship between sports leagues and gambling operators. So, U.S. sports leagues have been playing it by ear. 

The NHL has several jersey sponsorships with gambling operators. For instance, the Washington Capitals have a jersey patch sponsored by Caesars Sportsbook. The Arizona Coyotes’ jerseys are sponsored by nearby casino operator Gila River Resorts. Meanwhile, the Vegas Golden Knights jerseys are sponsored by Circa Las Vegas. 

MLB and the NBA currently prohibit gambling sponsorships on jerseys. But they are starting to allow other sponsorships. For instance, NBA arenas are permitted some limited floor apron signage from casinos and sports betting partner.

Currently, MLB Players Inc, and MGM Resorts (co-owner of BetMGM) have a sponsorship arrangement. Per the terms of the agreement, MGM can apply MLB Players' group rights across a broad range of print and digital promotions, advertisements and sweepstakes in the U.S., China and Japan. Even the head of the MLB Players Association worries that the relationship between leagues and gambling companies may be a slippery slope. 

So, just as U.S. sports leagues are expanding their relationships with gambling operators, the UK leagues — with vastly more experience — are trying to reign them in. Apparently, both are hoping there is a sweet spot between lucrative revenue and responsible gambling. 

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