Are Gambling Shirt Sponsors on the Demise?

Tune into any Premier League game and there is a decent chance you will see a gambling sponsor on at least one of the team’s shirts. This is not a new phenomenon either as gambling has been the dominant industry when it comes to getting brand names on Premier League football kits. Rewind to the 2016/17 season for example and half of the 20 clubs in the division had a gambling company as their main shirt sponsor.

Returning to the present day, the situation is not all that different. Looking at the 2023/24 season, eight teams have a gambling logo on the front of their shirt, often involving the newest online casinos, rather than the more established, recognisable brands. An additional two teams have gambling sponsors on their sleeves. This hardly looks like much of a demise but this situation will not continue for too much longer.

Starting in the 2026/27 season, Premier League clubs will no longer be allowed to have a match-day shirt with a gambling sponsor. The clubs themselves collectively agreed to this, becoming the first sports league in the UK to take such voluntary action. On the face of things, this would appear to severely reduce the ties gambling firms have to Premier League clubs but the reality is not so clear-cut.

The End of Gambling Shirt Sponsors?

There is going to be an element of demise for gambling sponsorships because the upcoming ban very much looks like it is happening. Although it is not a legally binding agreement, clubs would face a huge backlash by postponing or cancelling the ban, especially as many wanted it implemented even sooner. It is also difficult to see what possible justification could be given for a U-turn either so you should fully expect the ban to happen as planned.

This will mean that August 2026 will see the first round of Premier League fixtures since 2003/04 where no club has a gambling sponsor front-and-centre on the shirt. Some clubs will no doubt keep going until this deadline as gambling firms often make for the most lucrative deals. There is no real reason to expect clubs to voluntarily withdraw from gambling sponsorships until they are required to do so. They may be unpopular among fans but the extra revenues are hard to turn down. It would only make sense for clubs looking for a longer-term partnership rather than one that is only for a season or two.

It is not as though the gambling firms themselves will be put off by the future ban either. Many will still want to do business with Premier League clubs for as long as they can because they have proven to be excellent investments. That is a reason after all why the Premier League has for many seasons consistently had eight or more clubs with a gambling sponsor.

So, while the announcement of the ban is not going to have a major impact, the actual ban itself, starting in the 2026/27 season certainly will.

Other Options Available for Gambling Firms

bet365 Stadium
The bet365 Stadium in Stoke on Trent (Credit: ATGImages / bigstock)

While many campaigners celebrated the Premier League’s announcement of their voluntary gambling sponsor ban, some don’t view it as going far enough. The main issue is that gambling firms still have other routes into visible Premier League sponsorship, they are not dependent on the front of the shirt. One obvious alternative is simply to become the sleeve sponsor, something which is already the case at Crystal Palace and Wolves.

The upcoming ban does not cover the sleeve, only the front of shirt, so betting companies could well just reposition their logos a few inches to the side. Firms will also likely target other assets to a greater extent, primarily LED advertising boards but potentially training wear, stadium naming rights and so on. In this sense the gambling industry’s relationship with football is not being significantly weakened, rather it is just going to change form.

These other avenues will not entirely compensate for the loss of front-of-shirt revenues but clubs will still be able to milk the cash cows that are gambling companies to a reduced extent.

How Will The Ban Impact Gambling Firms?

As discussed above, gambling firms will likely explore other sponsorship options with Premier League clubs still available to them from 2026 onwards. The main reason for penning football sponsorship deals, at inflated costs, is often to legitimise their business. In the past gambling sponsors had tended to be more established names and ones that served UK customers. The very first Premier League betting sponsor was Betfair (Fulham) in 2002/03 while you also had the likes of Boylesports (Sunderland), Mansion (Tottenham) and 32Red (Aston Villa) in 2007/08.

The modern picture is significantly different as sometimes gambling sponsors do not even serve UK customers and instead typically operate in Asia. Sometimes they are very new casinos or betting sites that are not well known in the UK, and it’s even difficult to find any reliable information on some of the brands. Try looking up LoveBet (the former sponsor of Burnley) or M88 (the former sponsor of Bournemouth) to see what we mean.

Because many of these names do not serve customers in the UK, they may just focus their attention on other sporting leagues with a global audience. Serie A and La Liga are not options due to bans there but most other leagues still permit betting sponsors on the front of shirts. The Championship will also remain a decent option, a league that currently has five clubs with a front-of-shirt gambling sponsor (six the previous season). Although under pressure to do so, England’s second tier has not yet announced plans to copy the Premier League’s voluntary ban.

Crypto May Fill The Gambling Gap

Although not gambling in the typical sense, investments in cryptocurrency are viewed by many as being a gamble. Unlike a more traditional investment, which may go gradually up or down, cryptocurrencies are extremely volatile and prone to big spikes and crashes. It is difficult to say what shape the crypto industry will be in by 2026 but if thriving, they appear to be something of a natural successor, though such sponsorship deals would likely face much public scrutiny.