How London’s Premier League Teams Could be Impacted by the Crackdown on the Gambling Industry’s Relationship With Football

In recent years, the gambling industry and football in the UK have become inextricably linked. It has become impossible to watch a game of football without some form of betting advertising on our screens, but that could be set to change, at least partly. There has been government-led pushback on the amount of these adverts, but gambling companies have changed with the times. Mobile betting apps have become a staple for most operators, as has their social media and mobile advertising. Some campaigners find this problematic, saying that children could easily be indoctrinated by the sheer level of advertising they are seeing. London’s Premier League Clubs are all entrenched in this system in some form or another, but change may well be on the horizon.

Upcoming legislation regarding shirt sponsors

In September, The Daily Mail revealed a white paper is set to be published by the government this winter outlawing betting companies appearing as shirt sponsors. Currently there are nine Premier League clubs with these sponsorship deals in place, four of which are London clubs. Brentford (Hollywood Bets), Crystal Palace (W88), Watford ( and West Ham (Betway) will all have to change their main kit sponsors, with the beginning of the 2023-24 season expected to be the targeted date to introduce the new law.

This white paper comes at the back of a review of the 2005 Gambling Act that was launched by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) in December 2020. It will be officially released either at the end of this year or in early 2022. A spokesperson from the DCMS said: “We are currently undertaking a comprehensive review of our gambling laws, including advertising and marketing, to make sure they are fit for the digital age. We are determined to tackle problem gambling in all its forms and the work will build upon our strong track record of introducing measures to protect those at risk. No decisions have been taken.”

Labour MP Carolyn Harris, who chairs the all parliamentary group for gambling-related harm (GRH APPG) said: “Banning front-of-shirt ads is of course the right thing to do, but it just scratches the surface. We’re bombarded by gambling adverts and that has to stop. Adverts should be completely banned to protect children and prevent harm.”

We have reached a point in English football where gambling is so entrenched in the sport that it is hard to avoid. A recent study found that every Premier League team except Norwich partners with a gambling company in some way, and campaigners are worried about how some of these partnerships are advertised. Many of these teams even put gambling advertising on their official social media accounts, which are followed by a large number of children.

What else could be done?

There have been multiple campaigns to shut down the gambling industry’s close ties with football in England. One group that has had a major role in the conversion is The Big Step, and they maintain that banning shirt sponsors is just the first step. They say there should no gambling advertising anywhere in football and they claim that a gambling brand is visible for up to 89% of each episode of Match of the Day, whether that be on shirts, pitchside or elsewhere. They also quoted a study conducted by researchers at Ipsos Mori and the University of Stirling, which found that “96% of people aged between 15 and 24 had seen gambling marketing messages in the last month and were more likely to place a bet as a result.” They also stated that the same study found that “in 2019, the UK advertising watchdog (ASA) caught five gambling firms breaking strict rules that ban targeting children with advertising”. The founder of the Big Step Campaign James Grimes said: “A shirt sponsorship ban would be a welcome and significant acceptance of the harm caused by gambling advertising in football. But this single measure would be relatively redundant if adverts are still permitted pitchside, during match broadcasts and online.” 

Another extremely vocal campaigner has been England’s most capped player, Peter Shilton. The former goalkeeper had a 45-year gambling addiction and in September, handed in a petition with 12,000 signatures to 10 Downing Street calling for an end to gambling sponsorship in football. At the time, Shilton said: “The law needs to change. If they don’t, a lot of people like myself and others who have lost loved ones through suicide will be bitterly disappointed.

“We get more and more letters about how much gambling keeps cropping up on TV or gamblers who’ve quit getting pop-up adverts. It needs to be regulated and this government needs to do something about it.”

The ‘whistle to whistle’ ban on gambling adverts introduced on 1 August 2019 has been greeted with generally positive responses since it was implemented. The ban means that no gambling advertising can be shown during any sporting event before the watershed apart from horse and greyhound racing. The Betting and Gaming council (BGC) has hailed the impact of the ban and have pointed to research done by media researchers Enders Analysis, which found that there has been a 97% drop in the number of gambling ads seen by four to 17-year-olds during the whistle-to-whistle period since the ban was introduced. 

BGC chief executive Michael Dugher said: “The success of the whistle to whistle ban is a clear example of that commitment and I’m pleased at how effective it has been during its first year in operation. I am determined that the BGC will lead a race to the top in terms of industry standards and we want to drive more changes in the future.”

These campaigns that have been successful and laws that have been implemented are a single step on the road to gambling ending it’s ties with football, and there is still a long way to go. Either way, Premier League clubs will have to continue to adapt to these laws, as change will keep occurring all across the football pyramid.