In a groundbreaking move, Premier League clubs have collectively agreed to eliminate gambling sponsorship from the front of their matchday shirts. This decision, which is set to take effect from the beginning of the 2026/27 season, makes the Premier League the first sports league in the UK to voluntarily take such a measure to reduce gambling advertising.
Premier League Aims to Reduce Gambling Advertising
Currently, there are eight Premier League clubs that have gambling companies as their shirt-front sponsors, with an estimated annual value of £60 million. However, the league’s decision reflects a growing concern over the normalisation of gambling among children and vulnerable individuals. By removing gambling logos from the front of shirts, the Premier League aims to promote responsible gambling and protect its younger audience.
A Collective Decision
The move comes as part of an extensive consultation process involving the Premier League, its clubs, and the Department for Culture, Media, and Sport. It aligns with the ongoing review of gambling legislation by the UK government. Additionally, the Premier League is collaborating with other sports to develop a new code for responsible gambling sponsorship.
Gambling Brands Could Feature on Shirt Sleeves and Hoardings
To facilitate a smooth transition, clubs will be allowed to secure new gambling sponsorships for the front of shirts until the ban takes effect. Existing sponsorship deals with gambling companies can continue for the next three years as well. However, it is essential to note that gambling brands will still be permitted in other areas, such as shirt sleeves and advertising hoardings, beyond the 2025-26 campaign.
Eight Clubs Affected by the Decision
The impact of this decision will be significant, as eight out of the 20 Premier League teams currently have gambling sponsors on their shirts. The affected clubs include Bournemouth, Brentford, Everton, Fulham, Leeds, Newcastle, Southampton, and West Ham. While the withdrawal of front-of-shirt sponsorship will address concerns regarding the visibility and normalising effect of gambling logos, the possibility of gambling brands appearing on shirt sleeves remains open.
Campaigners Call for A Complete Ban on Gambling Sponsorship
Campaigners advocating for an end to front-of-shirt sponsorship argue that it normalises gambling for children. The Big Step campaign, led by individuals directly affected by gambling-related harms, has been calling for a complete ban on all gambling advertising and sponsorship in football. They argue that such measures are necessary to protect vulnerable individuals and prevent further harm.
The Premier League’s proactive decision to remove gambling sponsorship from the front of shirts demonstrates a commitment to responsible advertising practices. The move also prompts discussions about the potential impact on clubs’ finances and the search for alternative sponsorship opportunities.
Exploring Alternatives: Potential Role for Cryptocurrency Companies
Cryptocurrency companies have been speculated as potential replacements for gambling sponsors. However, clubs have not yet rushed to embrace this option, except for a few isolated cases. The Football Supporters’ Association suggests introducing regulatory standards on cryptocurrency in football to ensure responsible partnerships.
As clubs transition away from gambling sponsorship, there is an opportunity to explore new avenues for shirt sponsorships. Tranmere chairman Mark Palios suggests that commercial directors should be more imaginative in seeking partnerships that reflect the club’s role within the local community. Plymouth’s model of partnering with a local charity, where the charity’s logo replaces the front-of-shirt space, could serve as an inspiration for other clubs.
Final Notes: A Milestone Decision
The Premier League’s decision marks a significant milestone in the effort to reduce the influence of gambling advertising in football. By taking a proactive stance, the league aims to promote responsible gambling and protect vulnerable individuals, particularly children, from the potential harms associated with gambling normalisation. The move sets an example for other sports organisations to follow, as the collective effort to address this issue continues.