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Bookie sponsorships under fire as FA cuts all gambling ties

Wembley Stadium, London
AFTER a three-month review into the state of gambling in English soccer, the Football Association has terminated its relationships with all betting firms.

That includes the mutually agreed disintegration of a four-year, £4 million deal with Ladbrokes – one of the UK’s most prominent bookmakers.

In an official statement, the FA revealed the decision was made when the board met last month.

“At the May FA board meeting, it was agreed that the FA would end all sponsorships with betting companies starting from the end of the 2016-17 season,” the release said.

“The decision was made following a three-month review of the FA’s approach to it as a governing body taking betting sponsorship, whilst being responsible for the regulation of sports betting within the sport’s rules.

“As a consequence, the FA has mutually agreed with Ladbrokes that its current partnership with The FA will be terminated from June 2017.

“The FA will continue to work with betting companies, including Ladbrokes, as they play a key role in sharing information on suspect betting patterns and so help in regulating the game.”

FA chief executive Martin Glenn praised Ladbrokes for its “professionalism and understanding about our change of policy around gambling”.

His opposite number at Ladbrokes Coral, Jim Mullen, insisted the company would continue to play an active role in identifying and reporting rogue punters within the sport.

“We understand the FA’s decision regarding their commercial partnerships on gambling,” he said.

“Football is a passion of ours, and our customers, and we remain committed to working with the FA to ensure the integrity and trust of the sport is maintained for the fans of the game and the millions of customers who enjoy betting on it week in and week out.”

The news comes as a result of mounting pressure on the FA to reconsider its commercial ties to the betting industry amid a string of gambling-related scandals.

Ladbrokes sign-up special

The most notable of those involved former England midfielder Joey Barton, who was hit with an 18-month ban and a £30,000 fine earlier this year for betting activities dating back over a decade.

He is one of several footballing identities to have criticised the governing body’s conflicting message on gambling.

In a comprehensive statement published in April, Barton said: “I think if the FA is truly serious about tackling the culture of gambling in football, it needs to look at its own dependence on the gambling companies, their role in football and in sports broadcasting, rather than just blaming the players who place a bet.”

What does this mean for clubs and bookmakers?

This kind of reaction from football’s governing bodies has been a long time coming.

A similar situation could arise in Scotland, where supporter groups are calling for wholesale changes to the way gambling is regulated and promoted within the game.

Of most immediate interest is where the English FA will take things from here.

Could this spell the beginning of the end for lucrative sponsorship deals between football clubs and betting firms?

During the 2016-17 English Premier League season, exactly half of the division’s 20 teams wore gambling brands on their shirtfronts.

They were:

That trend continues in the lower leagues, with the logos of 32Red (Leeds United), DafaBet (Blackburn Rovers), Tempobet (Burton Albion) and especially 888 (Birmingham City, Brentford, Nottingham Forest, Preston North End) heavily represented in the second-tier Championship last season.

Earlier this week, Brentford signed a new deal with Leo Vegas – one of the world’s fastest-growing online casino and sports betting operators.

You may notice that none of the clubs mentioned thus far have featured at the top end of the EPL table in recent years, but that does not mean the big boys are not enjoying a jumbo-sized slice of the gambling pie.

William Hill is an official partner of both Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur, while the Manchester giants have similar deals with Betsafe (Man City) and Marathon Bet (Man United).

So tight are Liverpool and BetVictor that Jurgen Klopp, the popular manager at Anfield, is now the face of the betting brand’s UK-facing advertising campaign.

Arsenal’s coffers benefit from a slew of regional wagering partners in Africa, Asia and Europe, and that may be where clubs and bookies find themselves in a spot of bother going forward.

Recent changes to regulatory policy will see the Gambling Commission begin to keep a much closer eye on UK-licensed gaming and wagering firms that target offshore markets.

“The Gambling Commission has announced that it will begin to require licensees to provide data in respect of their group companies’ activities in other jurisdictions,” the regulator confirmed in a press release earlier this month.

“The change is driven by concerns surrounding revenues generated from ‘grey markets’ and a need to ‘keep crime out of gambling’.”

This new agenda could have a significant impact on the profitability of internet casinos such as and, which generate much of their revenue from overseas.

It could also shed on light on the suspicion that several of Britain’s leading online bookmakers, including, draw the bulk of their business from China and the wider Asian region.

If the UKGC is as good as its word, the issue of sponsorship arrangements between clubs and bookies may be sorted without the FA lifting a finger.

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