Green Football Shirt with Price Tag

Do Gambling Sponsors Put Fans Off Shirt Sales?

When it comes to buying shirts there are two main groups of fans. There are those that will buy the latest version every season without fail, no matter how it looks like or who the sponsor is. The other group, however, contains people who are a little more choosy and will only buy shirts when they are sufficiently impressed with the overall design and have no moral objections.

Although colour schemes will normally stay the same, at least for the home shirt, manufactures are always tweaking their templates to ensure there are some noticeable changes year on year. In a lot of cases though, the biggest change on a football shirt will relate to the sponsor. Taking centre stage slap bang in the middle of the shirt, sponsors are a major part of any football kit.

Sponsor logos can be tricky for shirt manufacturers because usually they only have very limited scope to play around with them. In most cases, the brand paying the large sum of money to feature on the shirt will want their standard font/colour/symbol to feature. It is for this reason that the Tottenham home shirt features a red AIA logo, even though ‘never red’ is something of a club motto due to it being Arsenal’s main colour. So, while some fans may express frustration with the design of the logo itself, in other cases it is the company itself that is the off-putting element.

How Do Fans View Gambling Sponsors?

Survey on Tablet

It seems that one of the most objectionable types of sponsors a club can have on their shirt is a betting company. Clean Up Gambling teamed up with polling experts Survation to investigate how fans felt about the close relationship between gambling and football across a variety of areas. One of the questions asked the 1006 participants to what extent they would agree/disagree with the statement “I wouldn’t buy my club’s shirt if it had a gambling logo on it”. A total of 19% responded ‘strongly agree’ while a further 15% responded with ‘somewhat agree’. This gives us a total of 34% of fans that object, to some extent, to their club having a betting company logo printed on the shirt.

Although some fans may have answered the way they did because they wouldn’t normally buy a shirt (and thus the gambling logo element was largely irrelevant), this surely only represents a tiny fraction of those that responded. While there is always a margin of error in such results too, the findings are largely consistent with what the Fulham Supporter’s Trust discovered during their 2021 annual survey.

In this survey, 1,398 Fulham fans expressed an opinion, 72% being season ticket holders or trust members. A total of 46% of those who responded claimed they were uncomfortable with their club’s sponsorship agreement. In fact, 22% were so uncomfortable with it that they refused to buy the new kit on principle.

What Does This Mean for Club Finances?

Business Woman Signing Contract

As a general rule, clubs will usually pen the sponsorship deal that bags them the most money. There are rare exceptions such as when Aston Villa partnered up with local children’s hospice Acorns between 2008-10 but these are few and far between. It makes sense given that there is extremely good (and easy) money to be made through sponsors, as Manchester United in particular are all too aware. In 2021, the Red Devils penned a five-year shirt sponsorship deal with global tech company TeamViewer worth a gigantic £235m. Of course, most sponsorship deals are not this large but even in the Championship, they can be worth several million pounds per season.

If certain sponsors are turning fans away from buying the shirts though then this is something clubs have to factor into account. It is a myth that clubs rake in a fortune through shirt sales (something often repeated when signing a high-profile star) but they do usually receive a not-insignificant cut of between 7.5% and 15%. There is also the possible financial impact of any loss to their reputation or image (which is much harder to measure). Given this, clubs would probably find themselves better off signing a slightly less lucrative contract with a non-betting company rather than a very slightly higher-paying bookmaker.

This is just looking at the financial side of things too. If a club really cares about the views of their fans then they would choose to look elsewhere because there is considerable opposition to these betting sponsors found across fan bases. Of course, people hold a fairly dim view of some companies outside of the gambling industry but in most cases, customer sentiment is very neutral.

Will Gambling Shirt Sponsors Die Out?

Footballer with Plain White Shirt

In the 2019-20 season, half of all Premier League clubs and 17 of 24 Championship clubs had a betting sponsor on their shirt. Evidently, bookmakers have been happy to outbid firms from other industries when it comes to bagging sponsorship rights and the deals appear to be fully worthwhile. It makes sense too, given that there is such a large overlap between people that watch live football and people that are willing to bet on the action.

Premier League 2021-22 Season Betting Shirt Sponsors

Team Sponsor
Brentford Hollywoodbets
Burnley Spreadex Sports
Crystal Palace W88
Leeds United SBOTOP
Newcastle United Fun88
West Ham Betway
Wolves ManBetX

Polls revealing fan opposition to the increasing presence of gambling sponsors and adverts has had virtually no impact but this does not mean betting sponsors will continue to thrive. The UK Government has been looking into taking action on the matter and a House of Lords committee recommended that gambling operators should not feature on the shirt of any sports team from 2023 onwards. Although the recommendation has not been adopted (at the time of writing) the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sports did confirm that they are undertaking a comprehensive review of gambling laws and are keen to consider all relevant evidence.

Any clampdown on the number of gambling sponsors will inevitably face backlash from certain high-ranking individuals though. EFL Chairman Rick Parry for instance said the impact of banning gambling sponsors would be “potentially catastrophic… if any changes were to come in quickly”. He also reiterated that betting sponsors are worth at least £40m to the EFL so clubs would need to find other ways of adapting should a ban come into place. Premier League chief Richard Masters was similarly unenthusiastic towards such plans stating that the English top-flight does not think “there should be a prohibition on sponsorship of football clubs or other sports clubs, for that matter”.

Overall though, given that social moods appear to be shifting on the acceptability or desirability of gambling sponsors on football shirts, it is possibly only a matter of time before the rules are changed and such deals become a thing of the past.