The tier-two English football club Huddersfield Town has revealed to the Football Association of the UK that it faced pressure to display prohibited outsized logos on its shirts as Ireland-based gambling operator Paddy Power threatened to start legal action against it in case it stopped advertising the company, now owned by Flutter Entertainment.
Last week, the FA imposed a £50,000 fine on Huddersfield Town FC due to the football club’s decision to display the name of the gambling company diagonally on its players’ shirt chests. As found by the football’s governing body in the UK, the move violated FA regulation C.2(i) under which advertising should consist only of a single area of 250 square centimetres on the front of the team’s jersey.
The shirts’ design appeared during a pre-season friendly fixture between Huddersfield Town and Rochdale, which took place in July. The new kits were unveiled two days earlier as part of the Championship club’s new sponsorship agreement with Paddy Power.
The design could not be left unnoticed, especially the ongoing controversy regarding the increasing number of sponsorship deals between local gambling operators and English football clubs. Gambling companies have been blamed for popularising their services among sports fans through an increased number of sponsorship deals with professional athletes, English Premier League (EPL) and Championship football clubs and massive marketing presence on social media.
Move Was Part of Paddy Power’s “Save Our Shirt” Awareness Campaign
Of course, the move of Huddersfield Town FC to display the prohibited outsized logos of the gambling operator was made on purpose, as it was part of the new Paddy Power campaign called “Save Our Shirt”. Reportedly, the sponsorship deal between the Championship football club and Paddy Power would remain active in the 2019/20 season, but the actual shirt design would not feature any branding.
The gambling operator itself has described its “Save Our Shirt” campaign as a call for football clubs sponsors to stop using shirts and kits to advertise their services to the fans.
On the other hand, at an independent regulatory tribunal which took place in August, Huddersfield Town FC admitted the charge. The club also faced a warning about its future conduct. According to documents from the tribunal, the football club tried to pull out of the sponsorship agreement with Paddy Power at the last moment, which is why the gambling operator threatened it with legal action.
As reported by Huddersfield’s chairman Phil Hodgkinson to the Football Association, Mr Hodhkinson had approached the referee of the club’s match against Rochdale, Martin Coy, asking him to suspend the club from wearing the shirts. The referee, however, explained in a witness statement that he felt uncomfortable with this request as he did not believe it was his job to ban the kit. He still informed the club that he would recommend their kits were in line with the FA rules.