Where does the future lie for gambling operator advertising in professional sport?

Gambling operator advertising in professional sport
Government considers ban of gambling operator advertising in professional sport

According to The Times, the Government may ban betting firm logos from football kits as it weights up a blanket ban on kit sponsorships. And it might not only affect football. Sports such as snooker, darts, and boxing are also under consideration. What does this potential change mean for the future of gambling operator advertising in professional sport?

Government ministers are becoming increasingly concerned about gambling addiction. Currently, eight premier league teams have their shirts sponsored by gambling operators. Matt Zarb-Cousin, director of Clean Up Gambling, said: “Footballers, darts players, snooker players and rugby players are like walking billboards for gambling companies. The evidence shows this sort of advertising is impacting negatively on children who are growing up thinking you have to put on a bet to enjoy sport.”

As it stands, teams from the top two divisions make around £110million a year from shirt deals with gambling companies. But would a potential ban stop at clothing sponsorship?

Sir Iain Duncan Smith, a senior figure in the all-party parliamentary group on gambling harm, said a crackdown on shirts is a positive move. Yet, he’s urging the Government to go further and ban advertising from the industry entirely.

“Banning gambling logos on sportswear would be a welcome step,” says Sir Iain. “But given the risks presented by gambling, the Government will need to deal with this issue more widely. A complete ban on gambling advertising is long overdue and, should be brought forward ahead of the gambling review.”

Is this the right step forward? Is advertising the issue, or do the Government and regulators need to give more thought to the behavioural issues of individuals at risk? What are the key drivers for problem gamblers?  

Pros and cons of operator sponsorship 

First, the top two divisions invest income from shirt deals into players wages. And, importantly, teams often reinvest money into their local communities. Thirdly, they invest in opportunities for youth teams, as a result, boosting the younger generation. There are, however, people who still disagree with it. 

What’s the flip side? Campaigners who wish to see an end to sports betting sponsorship argue that it influences minors. Children constantly see gambling company logos on their favourite teams and players which normalises gambling. But it can lead to problems for vulnerable people, especially those at risk of developing an addiction because it can appear safe.

What’s the answer?    

That’s the million-dollar question!

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, which heads the review into gambling, insists they don’t yet have a decision on the ban.

“We are undertaking a comprehensive review of gambling laws to make sure they are fit for the digital age. We are determined to tackle problem gambling in all its forms. No decisions have been taken.”

Professional sports teams maximise the sponsorship opportunities to invest in their businesses. And gambling firms use sports as a platform to reach customers.

Is there an alternative to sponsorship advertising where gambling firms can still invest, but without kits? As part of the agreement, can they reinvest to raise the awareness of the support available for individuals struggling with problem gambling or those most at risk?

We’d love to hear your thoughts on advertising in professional sport. Head on over to our social channels to join the conversation.  

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