In the 2013/14 Premier League season, only three clubs were sponsored by gambling companies. Today, nine of the 20 Premier League clubs and 17 of the 24 Championship clubs are sponsored by them.
Gambling companies are fast becoming ubiquitous in the sport, with many clubs having ‘official betting partners‘.
It is, therefore, of little surprise that GambleAware, a charity committed to minimising gambling-related harm, has warned football clubs that the wealth of advertising is “normalising gambling for children” – this is to say nothing about its effect on players.
Last year, the BBC conducted a survey, which found that 44% of young football fans (aged 18-24) bet on football whilst only 37% of young football fans actually play for a football team.
The current climate of the sport encourages gambling with “the relationship between football and gambling [ ] at a tipping point” according to the Chief Executive of GambleAware, Mark Etches. Indeed, in Italy, ministers have very recently issued new law banning the advertising of all forms of gambling – a move that will no doubt impact the earning capacity of Italian football clubs.
Shortly before the close of last season, Crystal Palace made positive steps by partnering with GambleAware to tackle problem gambling in football and raise awareness of the advice and support available to those who struggle with gambling.
GambleAware is reported to be in contact with the Football Association, Premier League and the Football League in a bid for action to address the role of football in gambling. Whilst it is highly unlikely that the extreme measures implemented by the Italian government would be replicated in the UK, pressure mounts on all interested parties in the relationship between gambling and sport to achieve a balanced and healthy relationship.