Looking to avoid government intervention, Premier League teams are expected to agree to a proposal that would ban sportsbooks from acquiring sponsorship space on the front of jerseys.
The actual vote by teams is not expected to come until June, but it is widely considered a preemptive move ahead of the release of the long-awaited “White Paper” on gambling from officials in the United Kingdom. It is believed ministers would not support a total ban on sportsbooks advertising on jerseys should the clubs agree to the ban on the front of the jersey.
The release of the White Paper, which will serve as guidance to update rules and regulations that have been in place since the passage of the 2005 Gambling Act, has been delayed more than two years due to multiple prime ministerial changes. It will also go well beyond sponsorships on soccer jerseys to impact practically every form of gambling in the U.K.
Premier League and sports wagering go hand-in-hand
With 𝟲𝟬% of the vote 😅
Your @Dafabet MOTM from Saturday 👏 pic.twitter.com/B9TcSuuWOO
— AFC Bournemouth 🍒 (@afcbournemouth) April 10, 2023
Much the way the NFL drives the U.S. sports wagering market, the Premier League does likewise in England. Fortunes rise and fall over the course of a 38-match season, while outside competitions including the Champions League and Europa League, as well as the Carabao Cup and FA Cup domestically, sustain bettors’ interests from early August through mid June.
Currently, eight Premier League teams have sponsorships with sportsbooks for the front of the jersey, but none of the “Big 6” sides — Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea, and Tottenham Hotspur — have such sponsorships. Those teams have other lucrative sponsorship deals and often qualify for Champions League and Europa League play — continental competition that also provides a boost to the bottom line.
The race to finish in the top four of the Premier League is often more exciting than the actual title race given what is at stake financially for some teams. Some contracts between clubs and sponsors have clauses that allow sponsors clawbacks depending on whether teams qualify for European play or specific European competitions. This season’s Champions League has a total purse of nearly $2 billion dispersed to clubs, including £13.6 million just for qualifying for the group stage.
Teams outside the “Big 6” looking to crash the top four need practically every pound they can wring from sponsorship deals for player wages and day-to-day operations. Newcastle United, which is third in goal differential and the highest-placed team with a primary sportsbook sponsorship deal, was receiving approximately £7 million per year from Fun88 in a deal through 2024-25 that was cut short, according to The Athletic. It’s also a pittance compared to the reported £67.5 million that Manchester City receives annually from its primary sponsor Etihad Airlines.
The most recognizable sportsbook for U.S. bettors on a Premier League team is Betway, which is the primary sponsor of London-based West Ham United. While the team is getting £10 million annually from the deal signed in 2019, Betway is getting an additional bump in U.S. attention given West Ham has been made the foil of AFC Richmond in the third season of the popular Apple TV+ series Ted Lasso.
Teams still making deals while expected ban looms
Even with the expected ban, Aston Villa recently signed a three-year deal to have online casino BK8 be its primary sponsor. That deal has met with some pushback among club supporters given the operator’s edgy marketing strategies. Supporters at Norwich City helped scuttle a similar deal with BK8 in 2021 as they claimed the sportsbook did not share the same ideals as the community.
Clubs that play at the Championship level — the tier below the Premier League — also utilize sportsbook sponsorship deals on jerseys in addition to the league having Sky Bet as its primary sponsor. Six of the 24 teams have sportsbook sponsorships for the 2022-23 season as they vie for the top three spots that offer promotion to the Premier League and a financial lifeline of sorts.
The top two teams in the Championship gain direct promotion to the Premier League, and there is a playoff for the final spot — dubbed the “richest match in football” because sponsorship deals are part of an estimated $470 million in revenue when including television rights and assorted additional revenue streams.
The three teams that are relegated from the Premier League to the Championship get what are called “parachute payments” over a three-year period that help ease the financial sting from the loss of television rights revenue and downgraded sponsorship deals.
Two of the three teams promoted to the Premier League last season — Bournemouth and Fulham — have sponsorship deals with Dafabet and W88, respectively, for primary jersey space. Bournemouth’s deal with Dafabet is reportedly worth $5 million a year and accounts for nearly half the club’s $12.1 million in sponsorship agreements, while Fulham claimed its deal with W88 was a “record sponsorship.”
While sport-specific numbers are not available from the U.K., the most recent figures released by the government that cover the period from 2021 to 2022 show General Betting Duty receipts — the category that includes wagering on soccer — totaled £649.5 million ($807.5 million), an increase of 9.2% compared to the period from 2020 to 2021.
What kind of impact will a sponsorship ban have? Teams will have to find another revenue stream, as sponsorship deals for sportsbooks to have advertising space on the sleeves of jerseys will be worth less than the space on the front of the jersey.
At the same time, there has been little talk about whether the White Paper will impact signage arrangements clubs have with sportsbooks as part of these sponsorship deals that are visible both in-stadium on match days and on television.
Additionally, if clubs are granted a transition period from the government to let existing deals run their course, the league’s voluntary ban will not be as economically impactful as one that takes immediate effect.
It also needs to be remembered the Premier League is still getting top dollar for television rights fees, with overseas rights now nearly equal to domestic ones and driving the overall value of those deals to approximately £10 billion.
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