A recent study from consultant company Caytoo has revealed that the gambling industry has dropped to fourth place among main sponsors across professional football, rugby, and cricket teams in England. Just two years ago, gambling companies led the way with 15.3% but now only parlays for 8.1% in total.
The study focused on the most prevalent sponsor across the 221 teams in the 13 different leagues/competitions of the three most popular sports in the country. Construction & Engineering firms have taken over the top spot and now account for 11.2% of the sponsors, followed by Automotive (9.4%) and Financial Services (8.5%) companies.
Caytoo’s biannual analysis of team sports sponsorship was published on July 1 and entirely focuses on the club’s principal partner while excluding their second tier and category-specific partners. The professional sports teams in football, rugby, and cricket may still cooperate with gambling companies. However, as the study confirms, they have become by far less prevalent in the eye of the public and during sports transmissions.
In 2019, the same study was conducted to include 163 teams in the leading 12 English divisions across men’s and women’s clubs. Entirely led by football, gambling companies represented nearly two times as many main sponsorships than second-placed financial services firms.
This has now changed significantly as gambling-related companies are not as prevalent anymore. Especially in football, there has been a sharp decline since the last study from 32.7% to 15.2%. They have retained the top spot among football teams but now represent fewer than one out of five instead of birthing the prime spot on the shirts of nearly every third club.
Financial services firms claim the biggest share of sponsorship deals in rugby. As far as cricket is concerned, companies in the automotive, construction, and engineering sectors are leading the way. The biggest gains were recorded by IT Services/Software, Automotive, and Telecoms.
As far as gambling-related companies involved as main sponsors are concerned, they have been reduced by 15 in total since 2019. The overall decline in sponsorships by gambling companies in English professional sports doesn’t necessarily come as a surprise. It coincides with the ongoing thorough Government review of the 2005 Gambling Act.
Nigel Huddleston, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport), has responded on several occasions that the influence of the gambling sector may warrant further scrutiny and mitigation. Possible consequences include stricter regulations and may even put a potential ban of gambling sponsorship deals in sports on the cards if there is evidence of harm from sponsorship and advertising.
The social responsibility of professional sports teams has likewise gained plenty of traction during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Betting companies have been encouraged to increase their safety protocols to protect problem gamblers. Multiple reports by players also suggest that online poker operators regularly request affordability checks to meet the requirements.
One particular example of a sudden change in sponsorship from the football sector has been mentioned in the Caytoo study. When they started their latest research, Norwich City FC had signed a deal with Asian betting firm BK8. However, by the time the study was finished, the agreement was terminated “due to public pressure over the sexualised nature of BK8’s marketing activity”.
The club has since signed a deal with Lotus Cars as the new front-of-shirt sponsor for the 2021-22 campaign in the Premiership. Norwich already held a sponsorship deal with the car manufacturer in the past as Lotus previously featured on the club’s away jersey between 2003 and 2006. The partnership also builds upon the Norfolk-based company’s successful sponsorship of the club’s training centre and academy over recent seasons, the club’s sponsorship announcement mentioned.