By Jonathan Lewis | 3rd March 2020
UK’s sports minister decided to take part in the government’s review of gambling laws, which also aims to resolve the issue with football clubs being allowed to be sponsored by betting companies.
Nigel Huddleston is the current sports minister and he has recently announced that the football industry’s dependency on gambling companies needs to be addressed as soon as possible and it will be part of the review of the Gambling Act which will happen within weeks.
The real controversy is actually the fear that football is used to normalize gambling among younger audiences through sponsorships, such as shirts and advertisements during the matches. The numbers are also quite scary, half of the Premier League clubs are sponsored by a betting firm and even the Football League itself has Sky Bet as one of their strongest sponsors.
“There is far too much of a dependency on betting and gambling money within football. I appreciate finances aren’t brilliant at a lot of the clubs, but they need to be mindful of the impact that these sorts of deals have on vulnerable people, who could potentially have an issue with gambling.” declared Mr. Adams.
“It’s right that in the new review of the Gambling Act, we will look at all these issues. I’m sure the link between gambling and football will form part of the review, which is going to be quite imminent.”
The governing bodies of rugby, cricket, football, and tennis want the government to impose a gambling tax on bookies’ profits, which will bring some money back to the sports community. In one of his visits to the Sheffield Institute of Sport, Mr. Adams stated: “Anything fiscal is a matter for the treasury and the chancellor. But as I say, there is nothing off the table.”
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Nige Huddleston, the Conservative MP has a wider cultural and tourism brief than those before him, which covers all the aspects of the gambling industry (including lottery and betting) in his new position in DCMS – the Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport. As part of his role, he will also be responsible for the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham. He is planning on keeping the relationship between betting and sports under close examination. On his official website, Huddleston wrote that he is delighted to have been elected as one of the ministers of DCMS. His official title is Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State. This organization has helped the UK sustain millions of jobs and they are responsible for many activities that are meant to greatly enhance people’s lives.
In one of his interviews, Nigel Huddleston MP said that sports clubs need to look for different sources of income. He also stated that he met with Rick Parry, EFL’s new chairman to discuss ongoing financial issues that exist in the Football League. This happened after the Football Association was criticized for selling the streaming rights of the cup matches to the betting companies, through a third party. Seven gambling platforms were able to show third-round matches to any member that made a deposit in the 24 hours before the game started. This deal was considered outrageous, especially because at the time, the FA was having a mental health campaign, so the betting companies dropped their exclusivity in an instant for that reason.
Adams added that: “We have to look at this very carefully because problem gambling leads to serious social problems, and in some cases, people have done drastic things and taken their lives, so we are looking at this very closely.
As you might see, the government is working hard to make us gamble aware and limit the advertising power of online casinos. While anti-gambling campaigners, together with Labour are fighting for the removal of shirt sponsorships by betting houses, Adams is not sure what can be done overnight, because, according to the EFL, the gambling firms contribute £40m yearly through sponsorships alone, while the whole Premiere League is estimated to be worth £70m in total.
Another review is being conducted into the league’s financial sustainability because earlier this season Bury FC has collapsed and many other clubs have reported that they weren’t able to pay their wages. This means only one thing – many football clubs aren’t profitable at all and there should be a change of the governance before it’s not too late.
The solution, according to the EFL, is for the gambling industry to contribute to the rebirth of the football industry by reinvesting some of their earnings directly into the sports. We agree that currently, they do so through sponsorships, but the main point is to do it in a responsible way so that people won’t get hurt in any way. While this sounds like a difficult task, it’s about time we wake up and start taking responsibility for our actions together.
Jonathan Lewis is a MFF sports writer.