The budding connection between football and gambling

Professional football exists for two very important reasons. The first is to give fans a wonderful league and teams to rally around as a community. Additionally, it’s fans who watch their favorite teams and players and get inspired to become great football players themselves. The other reason professional football exists is to give sports gamblers something to do on game-day. Indeed, there has always been a comfortable relationship between European football leagues/teams and a growing gambling industry throughout Europe.

In recent years, the connection football has with gambling has expanded to include relationships between the leagues, teams and players with land-based and online casino/sports book operators. These relationships have manifested into sponsorship deals that are giving exposure to all parties involved.

On the football side, sponsorship deals with major gambling operations have brought a great infusion of cash to help offset the rising cost of player salaries. For the land-based and online casino operators, these deals have brought them additional exposure, which has resulted in large increases in customer bases pretty much across the board. If a deal is one that greatly benefits both parties equally, it would be appropriate to say these sponsorship deals are rock solid.

Sponsorship deals – the early days

With the rising acceptance across Europe of gambling as a viable form of adult entertainment, it has become an accepted practice for football clubs to have relationships with gambling interests. No longer do fans and regulatory bodies feel uneasy about possible integrity issues related to gamblers and gambling operators having direct access to players and teams. With much of that in the past, the two communities have been able to move forward in a sort of marriage.

With that said, the first material sponsorship deals came to light just a little over 10 years ago. Online gambling giant Bwin.Party was the first one to join the fray with a T shirt sponsorship deal for Real Madrid. That deal lasted for five years, ending in 2012, with Bwin.Party then moving on to sponsorship of Manchester United. The deal with Real Madrid is estimated to have increased the online bookmaker’s customer base by 20% of the gambling market in Spain.

Other major deals being signed around the start of the decade included land-based casino giant Genting Casinos’ two-year deal with Aston Villa F.C., starting in 2012. Gambling companies like 188Bet, bet365 and 12Bet.com soon followed up with sponsorship deals of its own with various premier League Clubs like Stoke City and West Ham United.

QPR: Luke Freeman

Current sponsorship deals

It turns out that what was taking place just 10 years ago was nothing more than a tip of the iceberg. Today, there are nine Premiere League teams that have game-day jersey sponsorship deals with gambling concerns and online casinos. The list includes Bournemouth (M88), Everton (SportPesa), Fulham (Dafabet), Newcastle United (Fun88), West Ham United (Betway) and Wolverhampton (W88) among others.

As evidence this is a trend that is likely to continue growing, we are seeing a number of US major sports leagues and teams also signing with large online gambling operators. That includes a very recent deal signed between MGM Resorts and Major League Soccer. By the way, MGM has also signed deals with the NBA and the NFL’s New York Jets.

Clearly, major sports leagues and the gambling industry understand the tremendous potential that lies within these deals. Very soon, there’s a realistic chance every team in the Premier League will have a relationship with a large gambling conglomerate. The next logical step will be the introduction of sponsorship deals for the league in general and some of the major facilities where the top teams call home.