The deputy leader of the Labour Party, Tom Watson, has announced the party’s pledge to ban betting companies from signing sponsorship deals with football clubs. Watson proposed that a Labour government would liaise with the Football Association to tackle the problem, stating to The Guardian “Football has to play its part in tackling Britain’s hidden epidemic of gambling addiction.”

Labour Pledges To Ban Betting Companies From Sponsoring Football Clubs

Of the current twenty premier league clubs, nine have shirt sponsorships with betting companies, reportedly worth £47.3 million this season alone. Similar patterns arise further down the football leagues in the UK: a further sixteen clubs have some sort of partnership with gambling companies.

The proposed policy is believed to be one of numerous new strategies to eliminate addiction to betting and curb the potency of gambling firms, which itself will accentuate the pressure on the government. Watson further declares that gambling is detrimental to people’s health and the FA should prohibit shirt sponsorships with betting companies under their current rules and regulations of shirt sponsorships which currently bans advertisements that are “detrimental to the welfare, health or general interests of young persons.” A number of Labour sources hinted at the prospect of the FA using their own logic to pay attention to the millions of young people who watch football.

Having said that, the FA have taken action since ending its sponsorship deals with betting firms, after terminating their contract with Ladbrokes, worth approximately £4 million a year. This was in the light of the ban given to Joey Barton of 18 months for breaching betting rules, which has since been reduced to 13 months, as Barton himself expressed his fury and anger in a statement on his website, alluding to the problem with sponsorships in the current footballing generation: “I think if the FA is truly serious about tackling the culture of gambling in football, it needs to look at its own dependence on the gambling companies, their role in football and in sports broadcasting, rather than just blaming the players who place a bet.”

Watson believes that the problem does not just lie with shirt sponsorships, but also television commercials and advertisement: “It puts gambling brands in front of all ages, not just at matches but on broadcast and highlights packages on both commercial television and the BBC” he said to The Guardian. Whilst speaking to The Guardian, Watson drew connections to 2005’s cigarette policies, stopping cigarette firms from sponsoring sport. He pledged “It is right that we recognise the harm problem gambling does and take gambling logos off football shirts.” New evidence is beginning to arise which indicates how gambling addiction is rising “At huge costs to individuals and their families, to society and to the taxpayer.”

It is clear, then, that shirt sponsorships enhance bookmaker’s income and give gambling companies huge exposure. Whether true or not, the constant sponsorship deals floating around the major football leagues all over the world seemingly expresses a lack of discipline and attention to the matter with Watson himself stating “Shirt sponsorship sends out a message that football clubs don't take problem gambling among their own fans seriously enough.”