AFC Bournemouth announces a two year deal with online gambling company M88, which includes shirt sponsorship and pitch-side branding. It is a timely reminder of the additional considerations required for gambling company sponsorships in football.

In recent years gambling companies have become prominent features of football shirt sponsorship – they are typically more liquid than companies in other sectors, and the opportunity to invest cash for instant, wide-ranging exposure to a core customer base is attractive.

For next season at least 15 English Premier League and Sky Bet Championship clubs will have gambling companies as primary shirt sponsors.

The latest announcement sees AFC Bournemouth partner with Asian gambling company M88, with the latter named official shirt sponsor for the next two seasons.

There are certain additional considerations when negotiating shirt sponsorship deals with companies in the gambling industry, especially those based outside the UK. For a more detailed overview please see this piece Joshua Charalambous and Andrew Crystal wrote for LawInSport.

It is a useful reminder for stakeholders that:

  • There are specific rules and regulations which govern the advertising of gambling products. Those products must not be targeted at children. Questions arise: does the club slice the advertising opportunities by seeking different commercial partners (one for adult kits and one for children's)? Is the gaming company happy that another brand might advertise on the children's kit? Or do the parties come up with a creative solution to take the opportunity to support a charity by offering it space on children's kit only?
  • Offshore gambling companies must be licensed by the Gambling Commission in order to be permitted to advertise to consumers in the UK – this is an additional barrier and should be considered by those seeking to partner with emerging companies in international markets.
  • The explosion of innovative gaming and gambling technology and related issues such as athlete welfare, sports data, and integrity mean that sport and gambling are becoming ever intrinsically linked. As a heavily regulated industry, it is important to recognise and consider social challenges which stakeholders face and cater for that in any contracts.

Almost every professional football club in the UK's top leagues has a betting partner – whether as a primary shirt sponsor or exclusive betting partner. The English Football League itself has entered into an agreement with Sky Bet to sponsor its league competitions. It is therefore vital to be aware of the nuances in dealing with this sector when negotiating significant partnerships.