The UK government could scrap a legislative loophole that enables offshore betting companies to promote themselves on the shirt fronts of Scottish and English football teams. The proposal might come as part of the authorities’ efforts to overhaul the country’s current gambling laws. As ministers are preparing to soon present their proposals for reforms, a full ban on betting firms’ logos on footballers’ shirts seems highly probable.
The British government could go beyond the front-of-shirt sponsorship ban by targeting the white-label model many foreign gambling companies rely on to secure profitable sponsorships of football teams. The white-label model enables offshore operators, based in other countries, to seal sponsorship deals with British teams by partnering with smaller firms that have obtained licenses from the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC).
Holding a UKGC license is an absolute must for all gambling companies looking to advertise their products on British soil. The white-label companies usually hail from other jurisdictions like Malta or the Isle of Man. They then lease their operating licenses to foreign gambling operators.
In turn, this enables the offshore brands to market their services on pitchside hoardings or shirts to football fans in other jurisdictions where gambling and gambling advertising are against the law. The model is causing mounting concerns about the absence of transparency over the ownership of the firms advertised on the footballers’ shirt fronts.
The UK Government Could Go Beyond White Labels
The outright prohibition of the white-label system would prevent such companies from marketing themselves on pitchside hoardings and shirts, which is a rather common occurrence. But the British government might not stop with the ban on white labels. The Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport (DCMS) has also been considering whether to extend the shirt sponsorship ban to UK-based gambling companies amid rising concerns about the negative impact such advertising might have on minors and vulnerable individuals.
A documentary that aired on Channel 4 in June claimed the logos of betting firms appeared over 700 times during a single football game. Presently, 9 out of 20 football teams from the Premier League have betting firms on their shirt fronts as opposed to 6 teams out of 24 from the English Football League Championship. SkyBet is EFL’s main sponsor, but the League has multiple other connections within the gambling industry, whose overall value is estimated at £40 million per year according to Trevor Birch.
Mr Birch, EFL’s Chief Executive as of January 2020, called the outright ban on shirt sponsorships “concerning” since it might have a considerable impact on the League’s finances. Nonetheless, he is confident the EFL would manage to find new sponsorship opportunities if the worst comes to the worst.
Mr Birch argued that the betting industry should still contribute financially to football clubs no matter what changes the government decides to introduce. The sport is a major source of revenue for the bookmaking industry and is therefore hugely important for most bookies’ business models, Mr Birch concluded.