A group of 20 UK soccer clubs are calling on gambling regulators to end the practice of allowing gambling operators to sponsor sports jerseys. The renegade soccer teams announced their request in an open letter that was crafted with the assistance of anti-gambling activist group the Big Step, but say that operating a club without gambling money is entirely possible.
The letter was signed by 20 teams including The 20 clubs, including Luton Town, Bolton Wanderers and Tranmere Rovers.
The letter starts out with a description of how the teams, and Big Step, think gambling money and sponsorships are playing an out sized role in UK sports. It goes on to point out that self-regulation by operators, such as self-imposed bans on ads during soccer matches, isn’t having a meaningful effect on problem gambling and the 400 UK suicides it’s believed to cause each year.
What makes this plea uniquely credible is the fact that none of the clubs calling for the ban take gambling sponsorships themselves. In their letter, they challenge the idea that gambling sponsorships are a critical part of sports saying, “As clubs without these partnerships, we can say categorically that we evidently do not need them. We have managed to source other forms of sponsorship and have attracted partnerships because of our socially responsible stance on this issue.”
It’s unclear what impact the upstart clubs will have on the ongoing review of the UK’s 2005 Gambling Act, but this issue is definitely something that will be addressed by that review. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has himself endorsed the idea of jersey sponsorship ban, and said it will likely be part of a package of gambling reforms at some point.