Rise in betting companies football shirt sponsorship raises public health concerns

Football TeamsThe rise of the number of football teams sponsored by gambling companies is a public health concern, authors of a new research study say.

Researchers, including Dr Daniel Holman from the Department of Sociological Studies, tracked the number of football teams sponsored by bookmakers in the English and Scottish Premier Leagues since 1992.

They found a significant increase in shirt sponsorship since legislation was changed by the Gambling Act 2005. Of the 79 instances of gambling companies being the shirt sponsor of English Premier League (EPL) teams, 75 of them have come since 2005.

Half of the teams in the league In the 2016/2017 Premier League season were sponsored by gambling firms. In contrast, only 2 out of 12 Scottish Premier League teams had betting sponsors on their shirts in the same season.

While shirt sponsorship is lower in the Scottish Premier League, gambling companies sponsor the top four leagues in Scotland and the league cup.

In England, the same is true of the top three tiers of the English Football League from the Championship to League Two. The English Premier League has refrained from selling naming rights to the league since 2016.

The report says: “The world-wide EPL audiences are now in the position where 50% of the players they are watching play football carry the branding of gambling companies. So too do many of the advertising hoardings that surround the pitch, and the commercial breaks offer further reinforcement of the exhortation to wager.

“Many of the messages carried by these mediums encourage receivers to engage with social media and app-driven content, which when combined with smartphone technologies, make gambling even more accessible and imminent, and therefore potentially impulsive.”

The authors conclude: “The close relationship between gambling companies and football in the UK, whether through shirt sponsorship or other media, arguably supports the normalization of gambling.

“While individual responsibility and control matter, the settings of the EPL and SPL are increasingly offering inducements to gamble.

“Given that we know that gambling can become disordered, public health academics, advocates and practitioners have a continued responsibility to raise and debate the issue of gambling’s relationship to sport.”