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New Premier League CEO Masters opposes potential ban on betting shirt sponsors

(Photo by Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images)

Newly-installed Premier League chief executive Richard Masters has weighed in favour of continued betting company shirt sponsorship of the league’s member clubs.

Masters, who was appointed as the new Premier League boss in December, told The Guardian newspaper the league would cooperate with the government’s promised review of the 2005 Gambling Act, but would not support the banning of shirt sponsorships.

Last year, the UK government said it would conduct a full-scale review of gambling regulations to tackle problems caused by excessive gambling. The last major gambling review in the UK was conducted in 2001.

Masters said: “We’ll be welcome participants in that [review]. I think this area does need stronger governance, particularly to protect the vulnerable. I don’t think the answer coming out at the end of it should be that football clubs shouldn’t have shirts sponsored by gambling companies anymore. Our clubs have always abided by rules and regulations in relation to it.”

Masters added: “We’re not sniffy or judgemental about gambling at all. As you know, sport and gambling have a long association.

“The Premier League doesn’t have partnerships with gambling companies, we don’t sell watching bet rights, but it’s up to our clubs whether they want to have their own gambling relationships. All of them do, and a number of them [10] are on the shirt front.”

Read this: Gambling sponsorship under threat from UK government review

The 10 Premier League clubs with betting company logos branding the shirts are: Aston Villa (W88), Bournemouth (M88), Burnley (LoveBet), Crystal Palace (ManBetX), Everton (SportPesa), Newcastle United (Fun88), Norwich City (Dafabet), Watford (Sportsbet.io), West Ham United (Betway) and Wolves (ManBetX). Of these, all but Betway are primarily Asian or African-facing brands using the league’s popularity in markets outside the UK to gain awareness and credibility.

According to one agency source contacted by SportBusiness Sponsorship last week, Asian-facing betting brands could still be accommodated in a tougher regulatory environment, albeit at a regional sponsorship level, with the use of digital overlay technology which would allow operators to brand perimeter advertising boards in their target markets without influencing UK consumers.

More generally, the agency, which has an interest in the continuance of betting company sponsorship of Premier League clubs, expected the talks to go the way of similar discussions over the last 20 years – with some compromises, but no overall ban on shirt sponsorship.