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EFL voices opposition to recommended ban on gambling sponsorships

(Photo by Andrew Kearns - CameraSport/Getty Images)

The English Football League (EFL) has called on the UK government not to ban sponsorship deals with brands from the gambling sector within football.

It follows the publication of the findings of a House of Lords committee, set up to examine the social and economic impact of the gambling sector, which recommended a ban on sport sponsorship involving gambling brands to the government as part of measures to deal with gambling-related harm.

The EFL and its clubs could be particularly vulnerable to this given the reliance on deals with gambling brands.

The naming rights to the Football League are held by Sky Bet in a deal due to run until 2024, with 17 of 24 Championship clubs holding front-of-shirt sponsorship contracts with gambling brands.

In a statement, the EFL highlighted the increased vulnerability of its clubs due to the impact of the Covid-19 outbreak as a reason to not remove the lucrative option of gambling sponsorship. It said: “The Covid-19 pandemic represents perhaps the biggest challenge to the finances of EFL clubs in their history.

“With over £40 million (€44.5m/$50.3m) a season paid by the sector to the League and its clubs, the significant contribution betting companies make to the ongoing financial sustainability of professional football at all levels is as important now as it has ever been.”

The committee’s findings did recommend that restrictions on shirt sponsorship contracts and other advertising shouldn’t come into effect for clubs below the Premier League until 2023.

Its key conclusion though was that there “should be no gambling advertising in or near any sports grounds or sports venues, including sports programmes”.

The House of Lords review followed the commitment the government made in 2019 to review the 2005 Gambling Act, amid a focus on reducing gambling in the UK.

The EFL’s statement continued to indicate it was happy to work with the government to reduce gambling but reiterated its opposition to a widespread ban on sponsorship from the sector.

The statement read: “The League firmly believes a collaborative, evidence-based approach to preventing gambling harms that is also sympathetic to the economic needs of sport will be of much greater benefit than the blunt instrument of blanket bans.

“It is our belief that sports organisations can work with government and the gambling industry to ensure partnerships are activated in a responsible fashion.”