The Premier League is back and gambling dominates the sponsorship

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The first Premier League weekend was in August 1992 and it was a very different story compared with today. There were only 13 players that were from outside the UK and Ireland and there were no foreign managers or owners at all.

Even the logos on the teams’ shirts had a patriotic feeling with names like Norwich and Peterborough Building Society, Draper Tools and so on. Wimbledon didn’t even have a shirt sponsor. The situation is very different in 2018 where the value of a Premier League shirt sponsorship has skyrocketed to over £300 million. Now you can also by sleeves in addition to the fronts of kits.

The cost is a reflection of the fact that the Premier League has now a much more global appeal. Back in 1992-93 there were only 60 matches televised every year in the UK and only under 2 million subscribers to Sky Sports. This is why lots of shirts sponsorship were focused on advertising local businesses.

Now there are 168 Premier League games that are televised live in the UK every season and the Premier League is broadcasted in 212 countries. Outside the UK there are no restrictions on watching 3pm kick offs on Saturday so fans can watch on TV whatever game they like. This is why sponsors are targeting more an Asian public rather than an East Midlands one.

Another interesting thing to note is that when the Premier League was born we had the electronics boom: this was reflected in the shirt sponsorships as eight of the shirt sponsors in the Premier League were electronics companies. Commodore International were sponsoring Chelsea and Tulip Computers were on Crystal Palace kits. Most of those companies have now gone burst.

Nowadays football sponsorships are dominated by gambling companies. ‘The surge of online in-play betting which has been made possible by the improvements in the technology has linked football with gambling. For a bookmaker, there is nothing more interesting that being part of the game so that more fans will use them.’ said Ethan Rowe chief editor of online casino bonus site casinobiggestbonus.

A recent study found that gambling logos or branding appear 241 times and are on screen 30% of the time during an episode of Match of the Day.

But what is the situation in other countries and how likely we will be seeing Cristiano Ronaldo wearing a gambling sponsored shirt in Juventus? Very unlikely. The new Italian government has decided to limit drastically the relationship between sports and gambling. They have passed a law that will prohibit all forms of gambling advertising in every media. Even if the law will only come into effect at the beginning of 2019 it has already had the effect to push away lots of gambling companies that were very keen in sponsoring Italian football teams. In the last couple of years more and more Serie A teams have made deals with bookmakers and this was a trend that the new Italian government has decided to stop hoping to reduce the number of gambling addicted people in the country. Ronaldo therefore will not be associated with gambling although he has himself a deal with PokerStars: being a poker enthusiast he is naturally helping the brand as ambassador and this is likely to continue in the foreseen future.

Ronaldo has just left Spain and there the situation is a lot different from Italy. Bookmaker Bet365 only last week has signed a deal to be the sponsor of 10 different teams in La Liga. This means that the British online gambling company will be shown prominently in every major soccer event in Spain: it is not clear how much this deal will cost the Stoke based company but surely it will be a very expensive one.

The strategy from bet365 was to sign deals with teams like Athletic Bilbao, Espanyol, Real Betis, Real Valladolid, Rayo Vallecano, Celta Vigo, Getafe, SD Eibar and SD Huesca so to gain visibility when those teams will meet the big guns like Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid. It is worth noting that bet365 logo won’t appear on the shirts of the teams but it will be on the websites, facilities like stadiums and buses and in social media.

This article was brought to you by Late Tackle football magazine, the national football fanzine, 'by fans for fans'.
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