Boris Johnson ‘will likely’ support gambling shirt sponsorship ban

Prime Minister Boris Johnson ‘will likely support’ a ban on shirt sponsorships across football that link to the gambling industry, according to a report in The Daily Telegraph

The report, which cited sources ‘close to Downing Street’, states that Johnson’s senior cabinet are determined to go forward with drastic reforms to the UK gambling sector. 

Yet despite its support the government is conscious of the impact and timing of a sponsorship ban on football, which would leave a ‘£110m-a-year dent’ on Premier League and Championship club accounts.

The PM’s senior cabinet has maintained that all gambling sector reforms ‘will be led by the evidence presented by DCMS’ ongoing review. The government’s 2021 agenda will see DCMS publish its ‘white paper’ of recommendations for the UK gambling sector by late summer or autumn.

Labour MP, Carolyn Harris, chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Gambling Harms, stated that a sponsorship ban would be one of the ‘common-sense outcomes’ of the review.

A ban on shirt sponsorships by gambling brands has been pitched as a certain outcome as the mandate carries cross-party and ‘two-thirds of public support’, according to campaigners.

Alternatively, an option of imposing a ‘sports rights levy’ to be paid by betting operators to governing bodies has been ‘informally discussed’, after previous attempts fell foul of European law pre-Brexit, as the government recognises that advertising curbs will raise funding concerns from professional sports. 

Speaking last year on the ‘Unpicking the Terms of the UK Gambling Act Review’ webinar, Brigid Simmonds, chair of the Betting and Gaming Council, highlighted that there is a ‘perception issue’ surrounding sports clubs’ agreements with gambling brands.

Simmonds suggested that together sports and betting operators can have a positive impact, but companies that are not invested in the UK market should be reassessed. 

Last Autumn, English Football League leadership wrote to the DCMS stressing that lower league football clubs were on a ‘financial knife-edge dealing with the consequences of COVID-19 pandemic’.

The EFL supported changes to betting’s relationship with football but warned the government not to follow European counterparts in imposing a blanket ban on football sponsorships.

Supporting betting sponsorships, the EFL highlighted the response to social responsibility concerns by operators, such as League sponsor Sky Bet’s donation of 70 per cent of its matchday inventory to promote safer gambling and education of compulsive behaviours.