Chairman of the English Football League (EFL), Rick Parry, has spoken out against a ban on sports betting sponsorship arrangements, citing financial concerns for lower league teams.
Speaking to the Financial Times (FT), Parry remarked that a betting sponsorship ban would be ‘catastrophic’ for smaller football clubs ‘in the wake of the pandemic’.
Parry’s comments come two months after it was announced that a ban on gambling sponsorships would be ‘the most likely outcome’ of the ongoing review into the UK’s gambling regulations.
According to reform advocates, the decision to ban betting company shirt sponsorships reportedly has cross-party approval as well as the support of ‘two-thirds of public support,’ whilst Carolyn Harris MP of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Gambling Related Harm (GRH APPG) praised the move as one of the ‘common-sense outcomes’ of the review.
Additionally, a number of UK football clubs were contacted by a group of ‘50 former gambling addicts’ in February, with a warning about the potential dangers of promoting betting brands through social media channels.
Campaigners for gambling law reform have argued that the close links between football clubs and betting companies promotes gambling habits among children and young people, and has contributed to an overall increase in gambling addiction.
However, the EFL Chairman has criticised these claims, stating to the FT: “There’s no evidence to suggest that banning sponsorship will reduce the prevalence of problem gambling.”
The EFL – which constitutes the Championship, League One and League Two – is currently sponsored by Sky Bet, whilst more than half of Championship clubs maintain partnerships with betting operators, although Nottingham Forest and Queens Park Rangers recently severed ties with Football Index after the firm entered administration.
The collapse of ticket sales – which accounted for around one-fifth of Championship revenue in 2018/19 – as a result of the pandemic, has left many teams in a precarious financial position, whilst men’s football has been largely excluded from the government’s £300 million winter relief package for UK sports.
As a consequence, shirt sponsorships have become a vital source of revenue for many football clubs. The EFL’s 72 teams could be set to lose up to £40 million in annual revenue as a result of the ban, money Parry has said they can ‘ill-afford’ to cope without.